Woman Combing Her Hair before a Mirror

Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
c. 1870-1875
Oil on canvas 
18-1/4 x 12-3/4 in. (46.4 x 32.4cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
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.


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.

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