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

Grande arabesque, troisième temps

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Grande arabesque, troisième temps
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 16/K A.A HEBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)
bronze with red and brown patina
Height: 16 in. (40.6 cm.); Length: 21 5/8 in. (54.9 cm.)
Original wax model executed circa 1880s-1890s; this bronze version cast by 1926 in an edition of twenty, numbered A to T, plus two casts marked 'S' and 'AP' respectively, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard marked 'HER.D' and 'HER' respectively
Galerie Flechtheim, Düsseldorf (12 July 1926).
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, circa 1955.
J. Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 24, no. XL (another cast illustrated, p. 95).
L. Browse, Degas Dancers, London, 1949, no. 155 (another cast illustrated; titled Danseuse nue en grande arabesque).
J. Rewald and L. von Matt, Degas Sculpture: The Complete Works, New York, 1956, p. 149, no. XL (another cast illustrated, pl. 33).
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'Opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 140, no. S8 (another cast illustrated).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, no. 91 (another cast illustrated; titled Grand Arabesque).
R. Gordon and A. Forge, Degas, New York, 1988, p. 208 (another cast illustrated).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 118-119, no. XL (original wax model illustrated, p. 118; another cast illustrated, p. 119).
A. Pingeot, Degas, sculptures, Paris, 1991, pp. 155-156, no. 7 (another cast illustrated; another cast illustrated again, pp. 68-71).
S. Campbell, "Degas, The Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné" in Apollo, vol. CXLII, no. 402, August 1995, pp. 18-19, no. 16 (another cast illustrated, p. 18).
A. Pingeot, "The Casting of Degas' Sculptures: Completing the Story" in Apollo, vol. CXLII, no. 402, August 1995, p. 16, nos. 3-4 (original wax model and another cast illustrated, p. 62; another cast illustrated again, p. 61).
J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures: Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, pp. 152-153, no. 16 (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. 358-361 and 514-515, no. 68 (another cast illustrated, pp. 358-361).
S.G. Lindsay, D.S. Barbour and S.G. Sturman, Edgar Degas Sculpture, Washington, D.C., 2010, pp. 209-212 and 364, no. 32 (original wax model illustrated, pp. 210, 211 and 364).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Of all his sculptural subjects, it was the arabesque that most often appears to have inspired Edgar Degas. This was a theme that featured in a succession of his sculptures from the 1870s onwards, meaning that it was in fact one of his earliest subjects in three dimensional work. As its name implies, Grande arabesque, troisième temps is one of a succession of sculptures of a grande arabesque, each showing a variation of the position. It has been observed that strictly speaking, the arm and leg positions of the present composition make it the only true "arabesque" of those works. However, the arabesque was clearly a notion that fascinated Degas. In Grande arabesque, troisième temps, he has used it as a springboard for an innovative investigation of balance and motion. The body appears to rest on a fulcrum provided by the one leg which is touching the ground, while the other leg is thrust into the air at an oblique angle; that angle is almost continued, on the other side, by the body of the dancer, which tilts towards the earth, pointing downwards, an act that is potently underscored by the arm that hangs out beyond the base of the sculpture. In technical and balletic terms, then, Grande arabesque, troisième temps shows an incredible amount of seemingly precarious equilibrium. The body pierces the air in various directions, creating an impression of agility conquering the weighty mass of the body, both in the bronze and in the original wax.

The fact that the dancer in this sculpture has her upper body seesawing towards the ground means that this sculpture shows her in a penché position. Indeed, this composition has sometimes been referred to as Première arabesque penchée for this reason. According to the catalogue that accompanied the momentous retrospective of Degas' works held at the Grand Palais, Paris, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1988-1989, while the arabesque itself featured in a number of works in both two and three dimensions over the decades of Degas' explorations of the ballet, Grande arabesque, troisième temps is the only composition that shows it penchée (see J. Sutherland Boggs et al., Degas, exh. cat., New York, 1988, p. 586). Perhaps Degas was drawn to the delicate sense of balance and precariousness that this position specifically evokes when captured in three dimensions; this may then hint at the complexity of the relationship between the different media that he explored, indicating the extent to which Degas' plastic oeuvre remains autonomous from his drawings and paintings.

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