EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
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EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

Scène de ballet

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)
Scène de ballet
stamped with signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658; lower left); with atelier stamp (Lugt 657; on the reverse)
charcoal on joined paper laid down on card
22 3⁄8 x 26 1⁄8 in. (56.7 x 66.3 cm.)
Estate of the artist; Third sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 8 April 1919, lot 272.
Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection (circa 1950, then by descent).
Anon. sale, Cornette de Saint Cyr, Paris, 17 June 2021, lot 99.
Private collection (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
L. Browse, Degas Dancers, London, 1949, pl. 245 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

The present drawing illustrates three dancers in the middle of a ballet rehearsal. The subject closest to the viewer stands tall with her back to the audience. The middle figure, also with her back to the viewer, has a beautiful port de bras, as she extends her arm across her head. Degas directed close attention to the shading of the middle dancer’s face, and the blended charcoal creates a stark shadow over her face. The third dancer’s gaze is cast down over her shoulder, seemingly unaware that she is being observed.
Ballet is an art form built on paradox. On stage, dancers appear effortless and elegant. Often clad in airy tulle, they pirouette so quickly that they appear weightless. However, the air of unforced grace belies the grueling, demanding, and intense pressures that dancers face when the curtain is drawn. Like so many art forms, ballet requires rigor and discipline behind the scenes to produce a beautiful and appealing end result.
Degas deeply understood the demands of artistry, as such, so many of his depictions of ballerinas take place in rehearsal or in the wings. Rather than showcasing the image that the audience is so familiar with—the beautiful dancer on stage—Degas often portrays the grittier, unseen moments. This present lot is an embodiment of this interest. Rather than showing a precisely orchestrated moment on stage, Degas opts to represent these three dancers in rehearsal—a glimpse beyond the stage and into their daily practice.

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