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

Cheval arrêté

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Cheval arrêté
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 38/HER A.A. HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 11 3/8 in. (28.8 cm.)
Original wax model executed circa 1865-1881; this bronze version cast in an edition of twenty-two, numbered A to T plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard; marked 'HER' and 'HER.D' respectively
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris.
Private collection, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
The Reader's Digest Collection, New York (acquired in 1966); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 16 November 1998, lot 1.
Acquired by the present owner, 22 December 1999.
J. Rewald, Degas: Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 19, no. III (another cast illustrated, p. 37).
P. Borel, Les sculptures inédites de Degas, Geneva, 1949 (original wax model illustrated).
P. Pradel, "Quatre cires originales de Degas," in La Revue de l'Art, January-February 1957, p. 30 (original wax model illustrated).
J. Rewald and L. von Matt, L'oeuvre sculpté de Degas, Zurich, 1957, pl. 6 (another cast illustrated).
F. Russoli, L'opera completa de Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 143, no. 547 (another cast illustrated).
J. Lassaigne and F. Minervo, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, p. 142, no. S 47 (another cast illustrated, p. 143).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, pp. 20 and 35.
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 48-49 (another cast illustrated in color).
A. Pingeot and F. Horvat, Sculpture de Degas, Paris, 1991, p. 175, no. 47 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, "Degas: The Sculptures, A Catalogue Raisonné", in Apollo, August 1995, vol. CXLII, no. 402, p. 29, no. 38 (another cast illustrated).
J.S. Boggs, Degas at the Races, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., April-July 1998, pp. 84-85 (original wax model illustrated).
J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures: Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p. 195, no. 38 (another cast illustrated; another cast illustrated again in color, p. 194).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Selections from the Reader's Digest Collection, September 1985-April 1986, pp. 20-21.
Auckland City Art Gallery, The Reader's Digest Collection: Manet to Picasso, 1989, pp. 28-29.

Lot Essay

Cheval arrêté is cast from one of the fifteen equine statues that Degas modeled in wax between 1865 and 1881. He executed drawings and wax figures as studies in movement and kept them in his studio as he completed his paintings of racing scenes. Manipulating the highly pliable wax over improvised armatures, Degas explored the movements of these animals while pursuing the same theme with his modeled dancing figures. Commenting on Degas' use of these drawings and sculptures, Anne Dumas has noted: "Degas was obsessed, above all, with the figure, with movement and pose. Drawing for him was a way of discovering and capturing motion and posture. His sculpture can perhaps be seen as an extension to drawing, a means by which Degas could work through his ideas in a direct, tactile and three-dimensional form, and a fresh arena in which to work out problems. Like his printmaking, sculpture was a particularly experimental form" (op. cit., p. 40). Degas was so absorbed by these equine figures that in 1888 he gave them priority over his series of pastel bathers, stating, "I haven't yet done enough horses. The women must wait in their tubs" (quoted in ibid, p. 15).

Degas concentrates in Cheval arrêté on the sheer proportions of a racehorse, that are evident even when it is not in motion. The raised tail and unwavering forward glance of this thoroughbred also convey a sense of alertness and spirit that is echoed in the bronze's irregular surface, which bears visible traces of Degas' handling. Degas often observed racehorses at the Jockey Club in Paris or at the racetrack at Argentan near Ménil-Hubert, the family estate of his friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy. Degas first visited Valpinçon in the fall of 1861, and sketched at the national horse-breeding establishment, Haras-le-Pin. Over the next two decades, Degas frequented racetracks regularly, making copious notes and sketches and using them in paintings of horses, jockeys, and the Parisian crowd at Longchamp racetrack in the Bois de Boulogne.

Cheval arêté also documents Degas' familiarity with the equestrian sculptures in wax by Joseph Cuvelier, a sculptor who Degas befriended in the 1860s when the two artists were both working on the theme of the fallen jockey. Theodore Reff has proposed that the present sculpture represents a tribute to Cuvelier, who died in October of 1870 during the Franco Prussian War. Reff states: "There is some evidence that Degas attempted to organize a memorial exhibition of Cuvelier's work after the war. It was at just about this time that Degas modeled Cheval arrêté, which resembles the finely worked equestrian sculptures, also typically seen in profile view, in which Cuvelier specialized. The practice of sculpture as Degas understood it required the wax ultimately to be cast in bronze, even if he did not take the step himself. And bronze evokes by its very nature, regardless of subject-matter, the idea of a monument" (in "The morbid content of Degas' sculpture," Apollo v. 142, no. 402, August 1995, p. 64).

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