Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Grande arabesque, troisième temps

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Grande arabesque, troisième temps
stamped with signature, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 16/J CIRE PERDUE A.A. HÉBRARD' (on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 15 1/8 in (38.4 cm.)
Original model executed circa 1882-1895; 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
Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), New York.
Leo M. Rogers, New York; sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 1972, lot 119.
Spencer Samuels, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Fletcher Jones, California; sale, Christie's, London, 2 December 1975, lot 42.
Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Mr. and Mrs. Nathan L. Halpern, New York (acquired from the above, March 1976).
Private collection (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 3 November 2004, lot 6.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Rewald, Degas: Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 24, no. XL (another cast illustrated, p. 95).
L. Browse, Degas Dancers, London, 1949, no. 155 (another cast illustrated).
J. Rewald and L. von Matt, L'Oeuvre Sculpté de Degas, Zurich, 1957, p. 151, no. XL (another cast illustrated, pl. 33).
P. Cabanne, Edgar Degas, Paris, 1959, p. 61 (another cast illustrated, pl. IX).
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 140, no. S8 (another cast illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, no. 91 (another cast illustrated).
R. Gordon and A. Forge, Degas, New York, 1988, p. 208 (another cast illustrated).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 118-119, no. XL (original wax model illustrated, p. 118; another cast illustrated, p. 119).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, pp. 68-71 and pp. 155-156, no. 7 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, "A Catalogue of Degas' Bronzes," Apollo, vol. CXLII, August 1995, pp. 18-19 (another cast illustrated, fig. 16).
J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p. 153, no. 16 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 152).

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Mariana Gantus
Mariana Gantus

Lot Essay

Of the seventy-four wax sculptures by Degas that were cast in bronze, forty are dancers, and seven of these show dancers executing various forms of the arabesque, the most beautifully poised and classically balanced of all ballet positions. In it the dancer extends herself to create the longest possible line from her fingertips to her toes; the pose is normally used to conclude a phrase of steps. In actual practice she would have been supported by a male partner, as in a pas-de-deux, or held on to a barre in the dance classroom or studio; it would have otherwise been impossible for the dancer, pitched this far forward, to recover and again assume an upright stance.

It is perhaps the acute difficulty of this pose as well as its beauty that attracted Degas, who must have relished the challenge of idea of depicting the body at the extreme limit of balance. While other sculptures showing arabesque poses have counterparts in Degas' paintings, pastels and drawings, no other works show the arabesque penchée, possibly because the pose in a stage composition would have required a male partner, a subject that Degas avoided. It appears that Degas' interest in the pose was exclusively sculptural, and that he did not intend to use it as a model for drawing the figure, a function that many other sculptures filled while in progress or once they were completed.

This approach reflects a shift in Degas' sensibility, coming very late in his career, away from a naturalistic rendering of the figure to a more symbolic conception, in which the dancer embodies in her movement feelings of striving and risk. John Rewald wrote that the artist's hands now "modeled with more energy, less care, and their very feverishness seemed to be transmitted to the material. But this feverishness has nothing disordered about it. It corresponds to the almost youthful fire which so many great masters come to in their old age. The care for detail has disappeared; both hand and eye go after what is essential with the raw strength which comes from knowledge and experience. The movements to which he had devoted such research he now represents in a style which is itself teeming with agitation. In his hands wax is no longer an inert material; his fingers mould it almost in a frenzy, constructing masses which no longer borrow from nature the smooth surface of human bodies, but express, right down to their rough texture, the pulsations of life and the breath of the creator" (op. cit., 1990, pp. 23 and 24).

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