Edgar Degas: Danseuse au repos (c. 1879)
"Danseuse au repos" (c. 1879)
By Edgar Degas, from Paris (1834-1917)
pastel and gouache on joined paper; 59 x 64 cm; 23 1/4 x 25 1/4 in.
© Sold through Sotheby's, New York. November 3, 2008 for $37,042,500 - Lot 14
Jules-Emile Boivin, Paris (acquired in 1885, either directly from the artist or from Galerie Durand-Ruel, thence by descent and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 28, 1999, lot 4); Acquired at the above sale by the present owner (Private Collector, New York).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Degas, 1924, no. 116; Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Danse et Divertissements, 1948; Paris, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Degas dans les collections françaises, 1955, no. 87, illustrated in the catalogue; Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Edgar Degas 1834-1917, 1960, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue; Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Degas, 1988, no. 214, illustrated in color in the catalogue
"As one of the finest examples of Degas' pastels of ballet dancers, Degas' exquisite Danseuse au repos captures the hidden world behind the scenes of the Palais Garnier's spectacular ballet productions. Degas' profound sensitivity to the existential condition of this lone dancer is evident, singled out among the many young women of the company anticipating their turn or resting after an exhausting performance. One is struck by the picture's voyeuristic appeal, which engages us with this young women's sensorial experience at a particular moment in time. We can almost hear the rustle of her tutu's stiff gauze as it rises up behind her, brushing against the wall and the varnished wooden bench. And we can almost feel the heat of the other dancers seated next to her, as she turns away from them to stretch her tense limbs and point her toes with a professional's hard-learned discipline and concentration. Degas transports us into this rarefied scene, away from the pretense of a staged performance.
No other artist of his time was able to present this exclusive atmosphere so convincingly or capture the often overlooked beauty of its informality. This spectacular picture exemplifies just how brilliant he could be at achieving this feat. As the contemporary critic Jules Claretie wrote, "he knows and depicts the backstage world of the theater like no-one else, the dance foyers, the essential appeal of the Opéra rats in their bouffant skirts" (J. Claretie, 1877, quoted in J. De Vonyar and R. Kendall, Degas and the Dance (ex. cat.), The Detroit Institute of Arts & The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002-03, p. 63)."