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

Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit
signed 'Degas', numbered '40/D' and stamped with the foundry mark 'CIRE PERDUE "A A HEBRARD"' (on the base)
bronze with dark patina
18 in. (45.7 cm.) (high)
Conceived before 1917 and cast in an edition of twenty-two between circa 1919 and 1921, numbered from A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard, alternately marked HER and HER.D respectively.
Alex Reid & Lefevre, London, from whom purchased by the family of the present owner.
J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, London, 1944, p. 25, no. XLV (another cast illustrated pp. 101 and 102).
M. Rebatet, Degas, Paris, 1944 (another cast illustrated pl. 128). P. Borel, Les sculptures inédites de Degas, Geneva, 1949 (another cast illustrated).
J. Fevre, Mon Oncle Degas, Geneva, 1949 (another cast illustrated facing pl. 112).
P. A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. III, Paris, 1954 (another cast illustrated p. 114).
J. Rewald, Degas Sculpture, New York, 1956, no. XLV, pp. 150 and 151 (another cast illustrated pl. 57 and 61).
P. Cabanne, Edgar Degas, Paris, 1958, p. 61 (another cast illustrated pl. IX).
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'Opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no. S32 (another cast illustrated p. 142).
C. W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, pp. 18 and 19 (another cast illustrated fig. 99).
D. Sutton, Edgar Degas, Life and Work, New York, 1986 (another cast illustrated pl. 182).
S. Campbell, 'Degas: The Sculpture, a Catalogue Raisonné', Apollo, August 1995, no. 40 D.
Manchester, City of Manchester Art Gallery (on loan).
Edinburgh, The National Gallery of Scotland (on loan).
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Lot Essay

It is not known exactly when Degas began modelling in wax, but from reports of some of his friends and Degas' own letters, it is certain that he was working at sculpture during the 1890s. Many of the subjects of Degas' sculptures relate closely to his work in oil and pastel, suggesting a cross-fertilisation between his two-dimensional imagery. Indeed, it is frequently suggested that he used his wax sculptures as models for his group compositions. Hence the frequent relationship between the poses of his sculpted models and many ballerinas in his pastels and drawings.

Degas executed four closely related variants, and a number of associated studies for Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied. In all of the four sculptures, a ballerina balances herself on her left leg, looking at the sole of her right foot. This is clearly a difficult pose but one which evokes a strong sense of movement and bold contraposto. It appears that Degas returned to the pose several times over a period of ten or fifteen years, as we know from Alice Michel, one of the models who posed for the artist in 1910. Michel describes the model assuming this pose: 'Standing on her left foot, her knees slightly bent, she lifted her other foot in a vigorous backward movement. To hold her right foot in this pose, she caught her toe with her right hand, then turned her head so that she could see the sole of her foot and lifted her left elbow high to regain her balance.' (quoted in Exhib. cat., Degas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, p. 528).

While the pose remains somewhat enigmatic, ballerinas are perhaps the most admired of all of Degas' sculpture. The British sculptor, William Tucker, in comparing the sculpture of Degas with that of Rodin, has written of this figure, 'In the Degas sculpture, the figure is articulated, not as with Rodin from the ground upward, but from the pelvis outward in every direction, thrusting and probing with volumes and axes until a balance is achieved. From what we know of Degas' methods - primitive and insubstantial armatures, modelling wax eked out with tallow and pieces of cork - an actual physical balance in the model was as much a consideration as the illusioned balance of the figure.' (Ibid, p. 257).


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