The Star: Dancer on Pointe
c. 1878-1880
Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
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.


  • Artist Name: Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
  • Title: The Star: Dancer on Pointe
  • Date: c. 1878-1880
  • Medium: Gouache and pastel on paper, mounted on board
  • Dimensions: 22-1/4 x 29-3/4 in. (56.5 x 75.6 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1969.40.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

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.

Figure Pieces: Loan Exhibition

  • New York, M. Knoedler & Co., 1937-03-29 to 1937-04-10
  • Cabanne, Pierre, Edgar Degas,pl. 82 pp. 108, 135
  • Manson, James B., Apollo, pp. 141-142
  • Lemoisne, Paul-André, L'art de notre temps: Degas,no. XXV pp. 65-66
  • Brommer, Gerald, Exploring Painting,fig. 1 p. 102
  • International Art Market, p. 145
  • Rubin, Susan Goldman, Degas and the Dance, p. 20
  • Moore, George, The Burlington Magazine, p. 23
  • Kendall, Richard, Degas by Himself, p. 150
  • Apollo,fig. 10 p. 171
  • Kendall, Richard and Jill DeVonyar, Degas and the Dance, exhibition catalogue,fig. 235 p. 209
  • Mourey, Gabriel, The Studio, p. 136
  • Armstrong, Carol, Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas,fig. 27 pp. 56-57
  • Russoli, Franco; and Fiorella Mivervino, L'opera completa de Degas,no. 516 p. 111
  • Campbell, Sara et al., Degas in the Norton Simon Museum,2009, Fig. 15 p. 151
  • Manson, James B., The Life and Work of Edgar Degas,pl. 40 p. 50
  • Hertz, Henri, Degas,pl. XVII
  • Lemoisne, Paul-André, Degas et son oeuvre,no. 493 p. 273
  • Johns, J., Sundancer, p. 34
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best,2010, cat. 687 p. 327
  • Rebatet, Marguerite, Degas,pl. 78
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum,1989, p. 142
  • Browse, Lillian, Degas Dancers,no. 54 p. 356
  • Steadman, David W., The Connoisseur, p. 222-231
  • Leymarie, Jean, L'impressionisme, p. 66
  • Steadman, David W., The Connoisseur, pp. 222-231
  • Lemoisne, Paul-André, Les Arts, p. 30
  • Eden, Anthony, Another World, 1897-1917, p. 47
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Actress in Her Dressing Room Edgar Degas c. 1875-1880 and c. 1895-1905
After the Bath Edgar Degas c. 1890-1893 (dated in error by another hand: 1885)
Autograph Letter to Durand-Ruel Edgar Degas n.d.

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