Danseuse s’avançant, les bras levés, première étude

by Edgar Degas

P.O.A.

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DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 13.7 ins high

SIGNATURE: stamped with signature and with foundry mark and numbered ‘Degas 19/G A.A. HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE’ (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)

MEDIUM: bronze

 

Catalogue No: 5392 Categories: , ,

Degas modeled two versions of the Danseuse s’avançant, les bras levés: the première étude being the present work (the
original wax model is in the Mellon Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
The deuxième étude exists in cast bronze only, however, and in an incomplete state – the original wax model did not
survive the casting process (Hébrard, no.72; Rewald, no. XXVI). The artist’s efforts in creating two closely related
variants of this pose attest to its usefulness when he depicted figures engaged in stylised, forward movement in his late
drawings and pastels. As the dancer steps forward, shifting her weight to the leading left leg, she raises both arms in an
expression of joyous wonderment and praise.

Working from the present complete first version of Danseuse s’avançant, in lieu of a live model in the studio, Degas
could easily turn the table-top sculpture according to his desired vantage point, and repeat the process with slight
adjustments when depicting multiple figures in ensemble compositions. The rhythmical repetition of angled or straight
limbs, creating a patterned arabesque effect in his dance compositions, preoccupied the artist after 1895. In two series
of pastels ascribed to 1898-1900, Degas took particular interest in the parallel array of raised arms (Lemoisne, nos.
1336-1339 & 1386-1390).

In contrast to the more formally concentrated, rigorously disciplined, raised leg arabesque and battement positions that
Degas created, his treatment of movement in Danseuse s’avançant displays a more extravert, rustic, Dionysian
exuberance. Charles W. Millard noted the similarity between the present Degas Danseuse and the Fauno
danzante discovered in Pompeii in 1830, preserved in the ash that enveloped an opulent private residence known
thereafter as the Casa del Fauno (op. cit., 1976, p. 69 and fig. 98). The 28 inch (71 cm.) Fauno danzante quickly became
popular in bronze and plaster reproductions. One may easily imagine Degas’s nude Danseusein a troupe of maenads, the
young female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans), intoxicated with love of the vine and their congenial,
licentious god, ecstatically dancing.

Provenance

Sale: Galerie Motte, Geneva, 1 November 1963, lot 95
Private collection, Europe (possibly acquired at the above sale)
Sale: Sotheby’s London, 9 February 2011, lot 313
Collection of Herbert and Adele Klapper, USA

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Biography

Degas was born on July 19, 1834 in Paris. In 1855-56, Degas studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He lived in Italy from 1854 to 1859 where he studied the Italian fifteenth century Renaissance.

 

From the nineteenth century, he was influenced by academic painter J. A. D. Ingres, following the poussiniste belief in line as the basis of form in painting (rather than color as was believed by the rubenistes.­)

 

Degas’ first paintings were portraits and historical scenes – regarded highly by the establishment at the time – marked by a strictness of composition. But as he absorbed the perception of his surroundings and of the everyday life of man, Degas’s later work in the 1860s allied him with the Impressionists the following decade.

 

Fascinated by the diversity and activity of city life, he painted the ever-changing aspects of the Paris of his day (its streets, theatres, cafés, and race tracks), re-creating the atmosphere of a capitalist city from the eyes of the flaneur. Degas depicts people’s characteristic behaviour and appearance, born of the particular conditions of their work and of everyday occurrences. Focusing on the “occupational” gesture, he poses subjects with a business that combines movement and beauty.

 

A type of nineteenth-century humanist, Degas focuses great attention to his subjects (often members of the lower classes) and asserts the aesthetic meaningfulness of their ordinary lives. Particularly memorable are his many ballet scenes, conveying the festive and magnetic atmosphere of the theatre. While revealing beauty, the artist as an objective and subtle observer captures the parallel exhausting, monotonous labour hidden behind the elegant spectacle.