Lot 8
  • 8

Edgar Degas

500,000 - 700,000 USD
842,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Edgar Degas
  • Danseuse
  • Signed Degas (lower left) and inscribed jambes plus croisées (lower right)
  • Charcoal and pastel on paper


Antoinette Adam (daughter of painter Hippolyte Adam)

Pierre Adam (son of the above, acquired circa 1920 and thence by decent)

Sold: Hôtel des Ventes de Saumur, March 26, 1995, lot 19

Neffe-Degandt Fine Art, London

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998

Catalogue Note

No other subject figures as prominently in Degas's oeuvre as the ballerina, whose lithe body and theatrical gestures fascinated the artist throughout his long career. Images of dancers nearly overwhelmed his production towards the end of his life, as he constantly experimented with rendering these young women in various media including oil, pastel and photography. Degas would often meet his models backstage after the ballet, sketching them while they stretched, relaxed or collapsed with exhaustion from their performance. In his later years, he would invite some of the lesser-known dancers to his studio, making them pose for long periods of time and sometimes repositioning them to suit the eccentricities of his compositions.

Degas' behind-the-scenes participation at the Garnier Opera performances allowed him access to details of the dancers' practices that were otherwise unseen.  By the late 1870s and into the 1880s he attended both the performances and rehearsals, and he was well-known among the members of the company.  With such privileged access he could render them with his pastels in the midst of a staged production and in their more intimate moments when their movements were wholly unchoreographed.  As Richard Kendall and Jill De Vonyar state, "no one observed more closely than Degas ... the process by which 'common' Opéra dancers were transformed - through makeup, stylized costumes, and the distance between the proscenium and the audience - into 'priestesses of grace.'  Much of his own art was concerned with this metamorphosis: research has increasingly revealed the extent to which his performance images were rooted in firsthand experience of the state rather than in his painterly imagination"  (J. De Vonyar & R. Kendall, Degas and the Dance (exhibition catalogue), The Detroit Institute of Arts & The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002-03, p. 157).