Woman Combing Her Hair before a Mirror
c. 1870-1875
Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
On View

More swiftly and richly painted than most Degas works of the 1870s, this scene of a woman combing her hair offers few clues to its subject’s identity. The artist returned again and again to the theme of women combing their hair—from backstage to brothel to bourgeois interior—capitalizing on the chance it provided to portray a figure absorbed in her task, seemingly unaware she is being observed. Degas painted this particular composition on top of an earlier picture, probably a portrait, which he turned upside down before beginning anew. The left ear of the hidden sitter remains visible in the curve of the figure’s waist.


  • Artist Name: Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
  • Title: Woman Combing Her Hair before a Mirror
  • Date: c. 1870-1875
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 18-1/4 x 12-3/4 in. (46.4 x 32.4cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Art Foundation
  • Accession Number: M.1968.03.P
  • Copyright: © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Object Information

Edgar Degas Estate, Paris (sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 6-8 May 1918, lot 31, as “Femme se coiffant,” for f. 25,000 to);
Durand-Ruel, Paris.
[Jacques Seligmann, Paris (sale, American Art Galleries, New York, 27 January 1921, lot 24, as Femme se coiffant, for $2850, to)];
[Ambroise Vollard].
[Durand-Ruel, New York, stock no. 4670, transferred June 1921 to];
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, Paris, stock no. 13044, consigned/sold 30 September 1929/2 January 1930 to];
[Rosengart Gallery, Lucerne, and Gallerie Thannhauser (no. 1420), Munich-Berlin, consigned ca. 29 January 1935 to];
[M. Knoedler & Co., New York, stock no. CA697, returned 15 May 1935 to];
[Rosengart Gallery, Lucerne (inv. no. 13044) and Galerie Thannhauser, Munich-Berlin (stock no. 1420), shipped to Paris by Rosengart on 17 June 1937 to;]
Justin K. Thannhauser, Paris/New York, sold 1963 to;
[Feilchenfeldt, Zurich, sold 1963 to];
[M. Knoedler & Co., New York; stock no. A8528, as Femme se Coiffant, sold 18 January 1968 to];
4th Marquis of Hertford (1800-1870), purchased 1861/1863, by inheritance to;
Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), by inheritance to;
Lady Wallace (d. 1897), by inheritance to;
Sir John Murray-Scott (1843-1912, by inheritance to;
Victoria Sackville-West, Lady Sackville (1864-1936, wife of 3rd Baron S.), sold 1914 to;
[Jacques Seligmann, Paris].
[?]Mrs. George F. Baker.
Mr. and Mrs. Alfred (Lady Wallace) Löwenstein, Brussels and London; by 1930.
[E. Speelman, London; sold 21 December 1949 to];
[Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, stock nos. 0190 and 0191, sold 18 July 1951 to];
M. T. (Mrs. Richard) Warde, London (sale, London, Christie’s, 19 March 1965, lot 70, ill., as The Interrupted Supper).
[Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, stock nos. 7752 and 7753, as Le souper interrompu, sold 9 April 1967 to];
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

Man, Glory, Jest, Riddle

  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1964-11-10 to 1965-01-04

[on loan]

  • Fullerton Library, 1968-04-01 to 1969-02-06

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969-02-07 to 1972-07-26

Three Centuries of French Art: Selections from The Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art and the Norton Simon Foundation_2

  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1974-10-19 to 1976-06-15

Selections from the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art

  • Princeton University Art Museum, 1972-12-03 to 1974-07-17

Redesigned Degas Galleries

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1995-05-04 to 1997-06-01
  • Keller, Horst, Edgar Degas, fig. 105 p. 141
  • White, Barbara Ehrlich, Impressionists Side by Side: Their Friendships, Rivalries, and Artistic Exchanges, pp. 206-207
  • Lemoisne, Paul-André, Degas et son oeuvre, no. 436 p. 239
  • Russoli, Franco; and Fiorella Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, no. 426
  • Schacherl, Lillian, Edgar Degas: Dancers and Nudes, pp. 73, 124
  • Degas, Edgar Germain Hilaire, Letters, 1947, p. 123
  • The French Impressionists in Southern California: Paintings, Sculptures and Prints in Public Collections. A Guide Book and Catalogue, 1984,
  • Kendall, Richard, Degas by Himself, 1987, p. 169
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 153
  • Steele, Valerie, The Corset: A Cultural History, 2001, p. 123
  • Campbell, Sara et al., Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, 2009, Fig. 3 p. 85
  • Steele, Valerie, The Corset: A Cultural History (Russian edition), 2010, p. 123
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 411 p. 295
  • Michel Schulman, Degas Catalogue Raisonné Online, 2021, MS-1250
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Arabesque over the right leg, left arm in front Edgar Degas Modeled c. 1882-95; cast 1919-21
Arabesque over the right leg, left arm in line Edgar Degas Modeled 1885-90; cast 1919-21
Arabesque over the right leg, right hand near the ground, left arm outstretched (First arabesque penchée) Edgar Degas Modeled 1885-90; cast 1919-21

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