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NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Dance Class

The Dance Class


Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)

Oil on canvas


When this work and its variant in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, were painted in the mid-1870s, they constituted Degas's most ambitious figural compositions except for history paintings. Some twenty-four women, ballerinas and their mothers, wait while a dancer executes an "attitude" for her examination. Jules Perrot, one of the best-known dancers and ballet masters in Europe, conducts the class. The imaginary scene is set in a rehearsal room in the old Paris Opéra—a poster for Rossini's "Guillaume Tell" is on the wall beside the mirror—even though the building had just burned to the ground.


The painting was commissioned in 1872 as part of an arrangement between Degas and the singer and collector Jean-Baptiste Faure. It was one of only a few commissions that the artist ever accepted, and the painting was delivered in November 1874 after two years of intermittent work.


Bequest of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham, 1986



"The Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection contains more than two million works of art from around the world. It opened its doors on February 20, 1872, housed in a building located at 681 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Under their guidance of John Taylor Johnston and George Palmer Putnam, the Met's holdings, initially consisting of a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 mostly European paintings, quickly outgrew the available space. In 1873, occasioned by the Met's purchase of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities, the museum decamped from Fifth Avenue and took up residence at the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. However, these new accommodations were temporary; after negotiations with the city of New York, the Met acquired land on the east side of Central Park, where it built its permanent home, a red-brick Gothic Revival stone "mausoleum" designed by American architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mold. As of 2006, the Met measures almost a quarter mile long and occupies more than two million square feet, more than 20 times the size of the original 1880 building."

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Taken on June 30, 2012