Professor Theodore Reff has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed circa 1898, Danseuses au repos shows Edgar Degas' most favoured theme, the ballet. These dancers have been shown at rest, in an informal situation that strips away the veneer of show and spectacle associated with the stage, introducing an intriguing sense of realism to the picture, allowing the viewer what appears to be a privileged, even intimate glimpse of life off-stage and behind the curtain.
Degas has created Danseuses au repos through the deft use of the pastels that were his hallmark medium. As early as the 1870s, he had discovered that he preferred the speed of application and the sense of colour and of gesture of pastels to the traditional artist's medium of oil on canvas. Accordingly, many of his greatest and most celebrated works are pastels. Here, Degas has created a counterproof, a technique he often used in order to revisit a particularly favoured composition, as the basis for a picture which he appears then to have extended, by adding strips of extra paper to the support, before extensively working over the surface with his pastels. In this way, the figure of the right-hand dancer has also been extended, as has the background, making the focus on the centre of the composition all the more dramatic.
While Degas had created a range of techniques that give the impression of an artist frantically and accurately capturing a fleeting moment, he was the first to admit that his was an art of calculation. Increasingly, rather than visit the ballet or rehearsals, he worked in his studio, posing models in order to achieve the compositions he desired, and even working from photographs, a medium in which he was more and more interested. While his pictures were often considered intensely 'realist,' he himself explained, 'I assure you that no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament-- temperament is the word-- I know nothing' (Degas, quoted in G. Moore, Memories of Degas, quoted in R. Kendall (ed.), Degas by himself: drawings prints paintings writings, London, 1987, p. 311).