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Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, 1878-81

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
copper alloy
37-5/8 x 13-3/16 x 9-15/16 in. (95.6 x 33.5 x 25.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1977.02.70.S
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The original wax model of "The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer" was exhibited in the sixth Impressionist Exhibition of April 1881, presenting the Parisian public with an extraordinary new conception of sculpture. Degas dressed the wax figure in a silk bodice, gauze tutu, and fabric slippers, with a satin ribbon in her real hair wig. The wig, slippers, and bodice were covered with a layer of wax to help unite them with the rest of the work, while preserving their special texture. His model, Marie von Goethem, was a student of the Ballet de l'Opera and worked as an artist's model. Accustomed to representations that idealized human forms, the public had mixed reactions to the graphic portrayal of an adolescent dance student, dressed in real clothing. After the exhibition, Degas returned the "Little Dancer" to his apartment, where it remained until his death in 1917.

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