The Star: Dancer on Pointe

Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
c. 1878-1880
Gouache and pastel on paper, mounted on board 
22-1/4 x 29-3/4 in. (56.5 x 75.6 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Like this dancer, Degas’s pictures of the ballet hover precariously between the magic of the footlights and the realities of life backstage. We watch this performance in close-up, either through a pair of opera glasses or from the wings, to which Degas, an elite subscriber at the Paris Opéra, enjoyed access. The dancer’s pose—a piqué en attitude—cannot be sustained for more than a second or two at a time; this fact may explain the confused relationship between her legs and torso, which Degas joined with an awkward puff of tulle beneath her tutu. His model for this figure was Melina Darde, a teenaged member of the corps de ballet, transformed, by the artist’s imagination, into a glimmering, gas-lit star.


Alexis Rouart (1839-1911), Paris (sale, Paris, 11 May 1911, lot 215, ill., as Premier sujet, to);
[Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, stock no. 18.743 (half-ownership), sold 4 July 1911 to];
Sir William Eden, Windlestone, Ferry Hill, Co. Durham (sale, London, Christie's, 1 March 1918, lot 104, as The Dancer, to);
[Reid & Lefevre, London].
Mrs. R. A. Workman, London and U.S., by 1926.
Jakob Goldschmidt (d. 1955), Berlin (until 1933) and New York (1933-55), by 1936.
[Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York].
Grover A. and Jeanne J. Magnin, San Francisco (sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, 15 October 1969, lot 6, color ill., as Danseuse sur la pointe [Premier sujet] to);
The Norton Simon Foundation.

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via email. Requests can also be made by fax or mail.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Please fill out our Online Reproduction Request Form.

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (626) 449-6840 x 3300
Fax: (626) 796-4978

Additional Artwork by Artist