• Impressionist/Modern Day Sale  auction at Christies

    Sale 2313

    Impressionist/Modern Day Sale

    5 May 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 312

    Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

    Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
    Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit
    signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 67/D A.A. HEBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)
    bronze with brown patina
    Height: 18 1/8 in. (46 cm.)
    Conceived in 1896-1911; this bronze version cast at a later date in an edition of twenty-two, numbered A to T, plus casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard, marked HER and HER.D respectively


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    More than half of Degas' oeuvre is devoted to depicting the activities of ballet dancers; he was attracted to their movements, which were both spontaneously active and disciplined, as well as the artificial lighting and unusual viewpoints that the ballet stage and practice rooms allowed. Often he depicted the ballerinas backstage at awkward moments, catching them off guard. In doing this, he seems to have deliberately attempted to strip the ballet of its glamour. The present sculpture is one of three bronzes devoted to the theme of a dancer inspecting the sole of her right foot. Although this is obviously an action performed off the stage, assuming this position nevertheless requires a delicate balance of the ballerina. There are forces of energy directed both away from the body, as in the outstretched arm, and inward towards the body, in the down turned head and the hand holding the foot. It is perhaps the precariousness of this pose that attracted Degas, who must have relished the challenge of depicting the body at the extreme limit of balance.

    There is nothing inherently related to the ballet dancer in this pose. Without regard for the sculpture's title, one might consider it a depiction of a bather inspecting the sole of her foot during her toilette. In fact, many of the poses Degas chose to depict for his dancers were not unique to the ballet; they are often casual poses that were not necessarily held longer than other positions or more easily observable on the stage. The artist appears to have chosen some of his ballerinas' stances for their inherent interest as movement and not because they were signifiers of any occupation in particular.

    As he often did, Degas restated the pose of this sculpture in two-dimensional form, when he painted the figure in the foreground of Danseuse, circa 1895-1900 (Lemoisne, no. 588, National Gallery, London). Degas also used this pose, seen reversed, for a bather in Le bain du matin, 1890 (Lemoisne, no. 1028, The Art Institute of Chicago). While it is known that Degas drew from his own sculptures, the inability to precisely date these inter-related works makes it impossible in this case to track the developing chronology of this pose among its drawn, painted and sculptural counterparts, to know which version became the model for the others. What is clearly evident, however, is that Degas was intrigued by this pose, and that he returned to it on at least several occasions in his late work.

    Provenance

    Walter Halvorsen, London.
    Justin K. Thannhauser, New York (1929-1945).
    Saidenberg Gallery, New York.
    Etta E. Steinberg, St. Louis; Estate sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, 11 May 1977, lot 24.
    Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1988, lot 14.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Literature

    J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New
    York, 1944, p. 27, no. LX (another cast illustrated, p. 127).
    F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 142, no. S.32 (another cast illustrated).
    C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgard Degas, Princeton, 1976, p. 125, no. 125 (another cast illustrated).
    J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, p. 158, no. LX (another cast illustrated, pp. 158-159).
    S. Campbell, "Degas, The Sculptures, A Catalogue Raisonné," Apollo, August 1995, vol. CXLII, no. 402, pp. 43-44, no. 67 (another cast illustrated, p. 43).
    J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p. 253, no. 67 (another cast illustrated in color, pp. 252-253).