Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse
stamped with the signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658) and numbered 28/E (on the right leg); stamped with the foundry mark CIRE PERDUE A.A.HÉBRARD (on the left leg)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 17 in. (43 cm.)
Original wax version executed circa 1880s-1890s; cast from 1920-1921 by the A.A. Hébrard foundry in an edition of twenty, numbered A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder
Galerie Marcel Bernheim, Paris.
Acquired by the present owner in the 1960s.
Exh. cat., Exposition des sculptures de Degas, Galerie A.A. Hébrard, Paris, May - June 1921, no. 28 (another cast exhibited).
J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, no. LI, p. 26 (original plaster cast illustrated p. 113).
J. Rewald, Degas's Sculpture, The Complete Works, London, 1957, no. LI (another cast illustrated pl. 80).
F. Russoli & F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no. S55 (another cast illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, no. 110 (original plaster cast illustrated).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture, Catalogue raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, no. LI, pp. 140-141 (original plaster cast and another cast illustrated).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, no. 55 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, 'Degas, The Sculptures, A Catalogue Raisonné', in Apollo, no. 402, vol. CXLII, August 1995, no. 28, pp. 24-25 (another cast illustrated).
J.S. Czestochowski & A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, no. 28, p. 177 (another cast illustrated).
S. Glover Lindsay, D.S. Barbour & S.G. Sturman, Edgar Degas Sculpture, Washington D.C., 2010, no. 45, pp. 266-271 (the plaster version illustrated p. 267).
Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections suisses, de Manet à Picasso, May - October 1964, no. 29.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on loan.
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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

There is a strong link between Edgar Degas' sculptures and those of his classical predecessors, but this is perhaps nowhere so clear as in Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse. This sculpture appears reminiscent of the ancient fragments that have been so revered by artists through the ages and which feature so prominently in the museums of the world, not least the Louvre which he himself visited and indeed painted. This work comprises the torso of a woman; this appears almost classical in its proportions - all the more so because of the lack of head or limbs. The woman is shown towelling herself, an act that is deliberately everyday: Degas has collided ancient precedent with the realities of modern life and toilette. In this way, that prosaic action which runs like such a strong thread through so many of his most famous pictures has here been imbued with a timeless poetry. Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse appears as a fragment, yet this appears to have been part of a deliberate decision on the part of the artist himself, as this bronze was made from a plaster cast that was found among the sculptures in Degas' studio after his death. Where most of the casts that were taken of Degas' sculptures were based on his wax sculptures, the original for Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse was not found. Instead, a plaster cast of the work was found in his studio and included in his posthumous inventory; that plaster is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. The fact that he had already cast this work in plaster during his own lifetime reveals an incredibly rare appreciation of the composition on the part of the artist himself.
It has been suggested by one source that the original of Femme se frottant le dos avec une éponge, torse was itself composed of fragments. Looking at the bronze and at the older plaster, possible traces of the removal of an arm and the head remain (see S. Glover Lindsay, D.S. Barbour & S.G. Sturman, Edgar Degas: Sculpture, Washington, D.C., 2010, pp. 269- 70). Yet clearly these were decisions that the artist himself took, and that he then endorsed in an almost unique manner by casting it: the fact that this composition, above almost all the others that Degas created, was selected by the artist to be rendered in plaster reveals its importance to him, making it all the more apt that it was later granted this incarnation in bronze.

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