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

Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Danseuse regardant la plante de son pied droit
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 40/B AA HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 18 1/8 in. (46.1 cm.)
Original wax model executed circa 1895; this bronze version cast by 1922 in an edition of twenty-two, numbered A-T plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard; marked 'HER' and 'HER.D' respectively
The Hébrard Foundry, Paris (1922).
Ferargil Galleries, New York (1925).
C.W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, New York (1928).
Adolph Lewisohn, New York (acquired from the above).
Samuel A. Lewisohn, New York (by descent from the above, by 1938).
Margaret Seligman Lewisohn, New York (by descent from the above, 1952).
Adele and Arthur Lehman, New York (gift from the above, by 1954 and until at least 1965).
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York.
Lucy Mitchell-Innes, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1996).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, circa 1996.
M. Rebatet, Degas, Paris, 1944 (another cast illustrated, pl. 128).
J. Rewald, ed., Degas: Works in Sculpture: A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 25, no. XLV (plaster version illustrated, p. 100; another cast illustrated, p. 101; detail of another cast illustrated, p. 102).
P. Borel, Les sculptures inédites de Degas, Geneva, 1949 (plaster version illustrated).
J. Fevre, Mon oncle Degas, Geneva, 1949 (plaster version illustrated).
P.-A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, Paris, 1954, p. 185 (another cast illustrated, nos. 112 and 113).
J. Rewald, Degas Sculpture, New York, 1956, pp. 150-151, no. XLV (another cast illustrated, pls. 57-61).
P. Cabanne, Edgar Degas, Paris, 1957, p. 61 (another cast illustrated, fig. b).
C. Virch, The Adele and Arthur Lehman Collection, New York, 1965, p. 110 (illustrated, p. 111).
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 142, no. S32 (another cast illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, pp. 18-19, no. 99 (another cast illustrated).
D. Sutton, Edgar Degas: Life and Work, New York, 1986, p. 9, no. 182 (another cast illustrated, p. 195; dated 1880).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, p. 128, no. XLV (original wax model illustrated; another cast illustrated, pp. 129 and 198).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, pp. 169-170, no. 35 (another cast illustrated, p. 169; plaster version illustrated, p. 170).
S. Campbell, "Degas: The Sculptures, A Catalogue Raisonné" in Apollo, August 1995, vol. CXLII, p. 30, no. 40 (another cast illustrated).
J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p. 199, no. 40 (another cast illustrated).
S. Campbell, R. Kendall, D. Barbour and S. Sturman, Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 2009, vol. II, p. 382, no. 74 (another cast illustrated in color, pp. 382-385).
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Inc., Exhibition of Bronzes by Degas, December 1922, no. 34.
New York, Ferargil Galleries, Degas, November 1925, p. 6, no. 35.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Lewisohn Collection, November-December 1951, no. 167 (illustrated, p. 33; illustrated again on the frontispiece).

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

This elegantly poised figure is Degas’s most fully resolved and finely finished statement on a theme to which he returned repeatedly during the last two decades of his career–that of a nude model who balances on her left leg as she bends to inspect the sole of her right foot. “This subject is often considered one of Degas’s most inspired and audacious sculptural inventions,” Richard Kendall has written. “Movement is fused with stability, precariousness with momentary equilibrium, in a succession of forms that animate both the human body and the flurry of space around it” (op. cit., 1996, n.p.).
Although this figure has traditionally been titled a danseuse, only the delicate balance required to sustain the stance connects the sculpture explicitly to the ballet. Degas’s model Pauline, who narrated a memoir to Alice Michel sometime after 1910, recalled that it was an especially taxing pose to assume. “Standing on her left foot,” Michel recounted, “knee slightly flexed, she raised her other foot behind her with a vigorous movement, capturing her toes in her right hand, then turned her head to look at the sole of that foot as she raised her left elbow high to regain her balance” (quoted in S.G. Lindsay et al., op. cit., 2010, p. 231). The pose has loose classical precedent in sculptures of Nike or Aphrodite adjusting a sandal and the latter nursing a wound. Most of these show the goddess reaching across her body to grasp her foot with the opposite hand; in Degas’s version, by contrast, the model holds her foot with the hand on the same side, carrying the lateral imbalance of the precarious posture to the extreme.
In addition to the present sculpture, Degas modeled at least three variants on the same pose, all more summarily handled and probably later (Rewald, nos. XLIX, LX, and LXI). Pauline noted a further example that collapsed from an inadequate armature and another that the artist abandoned midway; the motif appears too in numerous pastels and drawings. “It is essential to do the same subject over again, ten times, a hundred times,” Degas declared (quoted in Degas: Beyond Impressionism, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1996, p. 186). The Danseuse offered here is noteworthy for the careful rendering of details such as the facial features, the toes, and the folds of the flesh, as well as for the abundant sweep of hair that cascades over the right shoulder, emphasizing the twisting motion of the body.
Degas himself evidently considered this sculpture one of his most significant achievements in three dimensions. Of the several dozen wax figurines that he modeled over the course of his career, it is one of only three that he is known to have had cast in the more durable medium of plaster, being famously reluctant to declare his work complete. Contemporary accounts indicate that he proudly displayed the plaster Danseuse in a large glass cabinet in his studio, where it was visible to visiting dealers, colleagues, and friends.

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