Degas's sculpture seems to have grown out of a desire to fully understand a pose or subject that he had already explored in paintings, pastels or drawings. Whilst it is almost certainly the case that Degas used his wax models for some of his later drawings and paintings, he also seems to have gained much pleasure from the act of modelling wax and clay, for its own sake, and with no view to exhibiting these sculptures in public. 'The only reason I made wax figures of animals and humans was for my own satisfaction', he wrote to a friend (A.
Vollard, Recollections of a Picture Dealer, Boston, 1936, p. 90). The present pose first appears in Degas's work in 1881, and the theme of dance and the ballet came to dominate all aspects of his work for the next ten years. Arabesque ouverte sur la jambe droite, le bras gauche en avant was originally conceived in wax around 1882-3, and as such is one of the earliest of Degas's sculptures on this theme.