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Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
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Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Grande arabesque, deuxième temps

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Grande arabesque, deuxième temps
stamped with signature, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 15/T CIRE PERDUE A.A. HÉBRARD' (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)
bronze with a rich brown patina
16¼in. (41.3cm.) high
The original wax model executed circa 1890-1895 and cast in an edition of twenty-two bronze examples between 1919 and 1921, numbered from A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and Hébrard (marked HER and HER.D respectively)
Alex Reid & Lefevre Ltd., London.
James Archdale, Birmingham, by whom purchased from the above on 27 June 1950 for £540 and thence by descent to the present owners.
J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture: A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 23, no. XXXVI (another cast illustrated pp. 88-89).
L. Browse, Degas Dancers, London, 1949, p. 389 (another cast illustrated; as Danseuse nue en arabesque, no. 157).
J. Rewald, Degas Sculpture, The Complete Works, Zurich, 1957, p. 148, no. XXXVI (another cast illustrated pls. 39, 40, 43).
J. Lassaigne and F. Minervino, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, p. 140, no. S 6 (another cast illustrated).
C. W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, p. 23 (another cast illustrated pl. 90).
R. Thompson, The Private Degas, London, 1987, pp. 130-131, no. 178 (another cast illustrated).
Exh. cat., Edgar Degas, Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1988, S.29 (another cast illustrated p. 193).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 110-111, no. XXXVI (original wax model and another cast illustrated).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, p. 155, no. 6 (another cast illustrated, pls. 72 and 73).
S. Campbell, 'A Catalogue of Degas' Bronzes', Apollo, vol. CXLII, no. 402, August 1995, no. 15 (another cast illustrated p. 18).
Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery (on loan from 1978).
London, The National Gallery, Degas: beyond Impressionism, May-Aug. 1996, no. 71 (illustrated p. 259). This exhibition later travelled to The Art Institute of Chicago, Sept. 1996-Jan. 1997.
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Lot Essay

Degas began sculpting in the late 1860s, and although he continued producing figures, mainly in wax, but also in clay and plaster, throughout his career, he only chose to exhibit one sculpture, Little dancer of fourteen years, during his lifetime. Friends, such as Julie Manet and Walter Sickert, mentioned seeing numerous wax models scattered around Degas's studio, and Renoir regarded him as France's premier sculptor, but otherwise few contemporary references to his sculpture survive. The fact that the vast majority of Degas's sculpture was not made for public display is significant, and emphasises the essentially private and exploratory aspect of this part of his oeuvre.

Grande arabesque, deuxième temps dates from the mid 1880s, when Degas's sculpture achieved an almost classical perfection. The slender figure of the ballerina is beautifully balanced, with a high quality of finish, and an unusually smooth surface. Degas almost certainly used the wax model of this sculpture to execute a number of works on paper in the 1900s, for example, Three dancers (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Parker I, 573), where he seems to have rotated the wax model in order to present three slightly different positions, to suggest the rhythmic sway of an ensemble. He also made a single figure study, viewed head on (fig. 2). By this method Degas was able to concentrate more on the dramatic quality of the pose, than would have been possible when sketching from life.

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