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

Danseuse, position de quatrième devant sur la jambe gauche, deuxième étude

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Danseuse, position de quatrième devant sur la jambe gauche, deuxième étude
stamped with the signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658), numbered and stamped with the foundry mark '58/T CIRE PERDUE A.A.HÉBRARD' (on the top of the base)
bronze with brown and green patina
Height: 23 in. (58.4 cm.)
The original wax model executed circa 1880s-1890s; cast 1919-1937 and later 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
Acquired in the 1950s and thence by descent to the present owners.
J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, London, 1944, no. XLIII, p. 150 (another cast illustrated pls. 32, 43-44).
R. Russoli & F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, no. S.11 (wax model illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976 (wax model illustrated pl. 89).
A. Pingeot, Degas, Sculptures, Paris, 1991, no. 10.
S. Campbell, 'Degas, The Sculptures, A Catalogue Raisonné', in Apollo, no. 402, vol. CXLII, August 1995, no. 58-T, p. 39 (another cast illustrated).
J.S. Czestochowski & A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, no. 58-T, p. 235 (another cast illustrated pp. 234-235).
Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections suisses, de Manet à Picasso, May - October 1964, no. 20.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections suisses de Manet à Picasso, May - September 1967, no. 17.
Riehen, Wenkenpark, Skulptur im 20. Jahrhundert, May - September 1980.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Sammlungen Hans und Walter Bechtler, August - October 1982, no. 57, p. 173 (illustrated p. 52; titled 'Danseuse aux bras levés').
Lugano, Galleria Pieter Coray, L'Impressionismo nella scultura,
April - May 1989, no. 29.
Riehen, Fondation Beyeler, Edgar Degas, The Late Works, September 2012 - January 2013, p. 257 (illustrated p. 58).
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Edgar Degas' sculptures of ballerinas are among his most celebrated works, studies of movement and grace that are given an extra rich life through their modulated surfaces, where one can trace, in the bronze that has captured the appearance of the original wax models, the deft, probing movements of the artist himself. This is clear in Danseuse, position de quatrième devant sur la jambe gauche, deuxième étude: the original maquette from which this cast was taken is considered by some to date from the mid-1880s, during one of the most renowned periods of Degas' career, when he was creating masterpiece after masterpiece in a variety of media, including the famous pastels in which he showed dancers at the ballet, often caught in positions denoting exercise or expectation, as they waited to burst into action.
Danseuse, position de quatrième devant sur la jambe gauche, deuxième étude is one of three slightly differing examples of a study of a dancer in the 'fourth position'. Where many of the dancer sculptures depict figures captured while exercising, this is one of the few occasions when Degas showed a ballerina in a formal pose that might be used on stage as well. However, her nudity demonstrates that it was the body itself that was the source of Degas' focus, the form and balance, rather than the clothing that is so often shown in his pictures. Instead, he has focussed on the raw material of the 'dancer' herself.

Of the three studies, two are believed to show the same model as each other, including the present example; the body of the third is different. This implies that, one way or another, Degas returned to the subject, revealing his fascination. And looking at Danseuse, position de quatrième devant sur la jambe gauche, deuxième étude, one can understand why: there is a gravity-defying sense of poise to this sculpture, with the leg lifted into the air so that it serves as a jutting horizontal, adding an intense dynamism. That dynamism is itself at odds with the reality of Degas' techniques in creating his sculptures: he was merciless in his demands of his models, who posed in his studio. This is not a spontaneous moment of practice or dance caught for posterity, but instead the product of lengthy observation from a number of angles. This reveals the extent to which, as Degas himself explained, 'I assure you that no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament-- temperament is the word - I know nothing' (Degas, quoted in R. Kendall, ed., Degas by Himself: Drawings Prints Paintings Writings, London, 1987, p. 311).

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