Click on the image to enlarge.
By way of disclaimer I must remind you (as if it isn't obvious) that I'm not an academic, nor an English major, and if I've read Edith Wharton or seen richly produced films based on her novels, I can't remember anything of any consequence. I would hazard a guess that she was in her time an authority on the subject of Italian villas and gardens as in later years Julia Child became an authority on the subject of French cuisine. In Wharton's time the area around Florence was filled with young college women from the United States who came to have their sculpted wax sketches pointed and finished life-size in marble by the patient and often grateful stone masons and artisans of Carrara and adjacent quarries. These sculptures were used to grace public libraries and civic structures throughout North America.
By November of 1903 when these ongoing articles were published in The Century Magazine Wharton was already famous for her novels (that would eventually number at least 40 in all) and Parrish was acknowledged as one of Howard Pyle's best pupils. I'm going to ignore Wharton's prose and just post visuals of Parrish's masterpieces because when you, as perhaps an illustrator, contemplate the enormous pressure on him to supply illustrations to satisfy this grande dame of letters and his august client Ted De Vinne, 1828-1914, the finest American printer of his day whose Century Magazine was appreciated for its good design and production.
Bruce Watson in the July 1999 issue of Smithsonian describes Maxfield Parrish as "a short, puckish man with piercing blue eyes," who "painted the stuff dreams are made of. His trademarks were lush gardens, ecstatic women and his famous 'Parrish blue,' the color skies must surely be in any Eden worth the name." The photo, above, is the property of the Dartmouth College Library, and a short biography is provided by the Alma Gilbert Gallery of Plainfield, New Hampshire.
Edith Wharton's biography, courtesy of the Gonzaga University's website devoted to her.
This is Edith Wharton in 1905 at The Mount, her very own famous estate and formal gardens.
This is the Villa Campi, near Florence. Click on the image to enlarge.