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

Cheval marchant au pas relevé

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Cheval marchant au pas relevé
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 11/I AA HEBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 9 in. (22.9 cm.); Length: 8 ¾ in. (22.2 cm.)
Conceived circa 1870; this bronze version cast by 1923 in an edition numbered A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard marked HER.D and HER respectively
Walther Halvorsen, London (1923).
Private collection, Paris (circa 1925).
Private collection, Paris (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, London, 3 December 1990, lot 11.
Acquired at the above sale by Achim Moeller Fine Art on behalf of John C. Whitehead.
J. Rewald, Degas: Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 19, no. IV (another cast illustrated, p. 39; original wax model illustrated, p. 38).
L. von Matt and J. Rewald, Degas: Sculpture, Zürich, 1956, p. 141, no. IV (another cast illustrated, pls. 7, 21 and 22).
F. Russoli and F. Minervo, L’Opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 143, no. S39 (another cast illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, pp. 24 and 106 (wax version illustrated, pl. 15).
J. Rewald, Degas’s Complete Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 50-51, no. IV (another cast and original wax model illustrated).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, p. 172, no. 39 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, "Degas, The Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné" in Apollo, vol. CXLII, no. 402, August 1995, p. 16, no. 11 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, R. Kendall, D.S. Barbour and S.G. Sturman, Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 2009, vol. II, pp. 229-231 (wax version and another cast illustrated).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, The Whitehead Collection: Late 19th and 20th Century French Masters: A Collection in Progress, April-May 1997, p. 28, no. 27 (illustrated in color, p. 29).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Depicting a spirited thoroughbred walking at a jaunty clip, the ears upright and alert, Cheval marchant au pas relevé is the culminating work in a sequence of three equine sculptures that Degas created in the early 1870s, all of which explore the ambulatory gait (on the date, see Degas at the Races, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, pp. 186-188). This sculpture–the liveliest and most active in the group–captures the horse with two opposing hooves lifted off the ground and the head tossed lightly to the side, recalling the gamboling chargers on the Parthenon frieze, the bronze horses of Saint Mark’s, and Verrocchio’s mount of Colleoni. The first of Degas’s sculpted horses that fully breaks from a static, earthbound posture to investigate the muscular tension and shifting weight needed to move through space, Cheval marchant au pas relevé anticipates the dynamic and boldly experimental series of trotting, prancing, rearing, balking, and galloping steeds that Degas would model during the 1880s, following the publication of Eadweard Muybridge’s revolutionary stop-action photographs. “Four-legged ballerinas dancing en pointe outdoors,” the poet Paul Valéry called Degas’s complex, varied investigations of horse gaits, likening them to his contemporaneous studies of dancers in motion (quoted in S. G. Lindsay et al., Edgar Degas Sculpture, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010, p. 64).
A long-time habitué of the racetrack at Longchamps and an adept horseman himself, Degas lavished great care in Cheval marchant au pas relevé on the rippling musculature of the horse, which complements the animal’s dynamic posture by heightening the impression of vitality. The tendons in the neck and legs, the bulging jowls, and the powerful, sinewy muscles in the haunches are all carefully articulated, calling to mind Géricault’s famed flayed horse in a similar pose, while the finely worked head–the nostrils flaring and the mouth slightly open as though resisting a bit–conveys an arresting sense of intense emotion and psychological life. Unlike contemporary animalier sculptors such as Emmanuel Frémiet, however, who favored the laborious reproduction of tiny anatomical details, Degas pioneered a looser and more “painterly” handling, reflecting his growing assurance in his craft and his passionate enthusiasm for his equine subject matter. As late as 1888, nearly two decades later, Degas could still write, exhilarated, to his friend and fellow artist Albert Bartholomé, “Happy sculptor...I have not yet made enough horses!” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 197).

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