Women Ironing
Begun c.1875-1876; reworked c.1882-1886
Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
On View

Once a private, domestic chore, laundry was big business in nineteenth-century Paris, where it employed roughly twenty-five percent of the female workforce. Steamy, dark storefronts, often open to the sidewalk, gave passersby a glimpse of women ironing, bare-armed in the heat. Born into an aristocratic family, Degas was fascinated by working women and by the increasingly porous distinctions between private and public, domestic and commercial in the modern city. His paintings of laundresses—none finer than the present example—reflect this fascination. Probably begun in the 1870s and reworked about a decade later, this picture suggests the brutalizing effects of hard labor. The women hunch, yawn, and drink over a pile of starched shirts, yet the peculiar delicacy of Degas’s touch—mimicking, in the flesh tones, his own work in pastels—reminds us of the laundresses’ youth and femininity.


  • Artist Name: Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
  • Title: Women Ironing
  • Date: Begun c.1875-1876; reworked c.1882-1886
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 32-1/4 x 29-3/4 in. (81.9 x 75.5 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Art Foundation
  • Accession Number: M.1971.3.P/M.1979.17.P
  • Copyright: © Norton Simon Art Foundation

Object Information

The artist, sold 18 October 1902, as Les deux blanchisseuses, 1882, for Fr. 15,000 to;
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, stock no. 7184, sold 18 November 1902, for Ff 20,000, to];
Oscar Schmitz (1861-1933), Dresden, and Switzerland (1931-1933);
Schmitz heirs (Edouard Schmitz), still in 1935;
[Wildenstein Galleries, Paris, London and New York by 1936];
?Edith Dunn (Mrs. Alfred Chester) Beatty (d. 1952), by 1953 inheritance to;
Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968), London and Dublin, consigned 30 December 1958 to;
[Arthur Tooth & Sons, London; sold 7 April 1959 to];
Lucille Ellis, Norton and Robert Ellis Simon, in 1969 after Robert Simon's death to;
Norton Simon and The Norton Simon Foundation, 1971 to;
Norton Simon gave his half interest to NSAF;
Norton Simon Art Foundation and Norton Simon Foundation;
Norton Simon Foundation sold its 1/2 interest to;
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

Internationale Kunstausstellung

  • Dresden, 1926-06 to 1926-09

Sammulung Oscar Schmitz: Französische Malerei des XIX Jahrunderts

  • Zurich, Kunsthaus, 1932 to

Französische Maler des XIX Jahrhunderts

  • Zurich, Kunsthaus, 1933-05-14 to 1933-08-06

La Collection Oscar Schmitz: Chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture française du XIXe siècle

  • Wildenstein & Co. (Paris, France), 1936 to

The Oscar Schmitz Collection

  • Wildenstein & Co. (New York, N.Y.), 1936 to

[on loan]

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971-08-01 to 1972-07-07

[on loan]

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1981-02-02 to 1981-07-01

Exhibition of Masterpieces by Degas . . . for the benefit of the Public Education Association

  • New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, 1937-03-22 to 1937-04-10

[on loan]

  • National Gallery of Ireland, 1956-11 to 1957-05

Special Exhibition for the College Art Association (Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon Collection)

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965-01-18 to 1965-04-16

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

By Day & By Night: Paris in the Belle Époque

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2019-10-04 to 2020-03-02

Selections from the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art

  • Princeton University Art Museum, 1972-12-03 to 1974-07-17
  • Lemoisne, Paul-André, Degas et son oeuvre, no. 687 p. 389
  • Shimada, Norio, The History of Impressionism, p. 301
  • Hüttinger, Eduard, Degas, p. 46
  • Manson, James B., The Life and Work of Edgar Degas, p. 52
  • Steadman, David W., The Connoisseur, fig. 2 pp. 220-222
  • Boggs, Jean Sutherland, et al., Degas, fig. 233 pp. 426-428
  • Vollard, Ambroise, Degas: An Intimate Portrait, p. 39
  • Lipton, Eunice, Art History, fig. 37 pp. 295-313
  • Dunlop, Ian, Degas, color pl. 99 p. 109
  • Rewald, John, The History of Impressionism, p. 466
  • Steadman, David W., Art Journal, pp. cover, 38
  • Mauclair, Camille, Degas, pp. 110, 167
  • Dormoy, Marie, L'Amour de l'Art, pp. 342, 343
  • Vollard, Ambroise, Degas, opp. p. 114
  • Scheffler, Karl, Kunst und Kunstler, pp. 178-186
  • Hourticq, Louis, Art et Décoration, pp. 105-106
  • Russoli, Franco; and Fiorella Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, no. 596
  • Lipton, Eunice, Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life, p. 142
  • Fechter, P., Kunst und Kunstler, p. 22
  • Schürer, O., Deutsche Kunst un Dekoration, 1927, p. 271
  • Waldmann, Emil, Die Kunst des Realismus und des Impressionismus im 19. Jahrhundert, 1927, pp. 97, 484, 632
  • Waldmann, Emil, Documents, 1930, p. 320
  • Dunlop, R. O., The Artist, 1944, p. 76
  • Daval, J.-L., Journal de l'art moderne, 1973, p. 84
  • Clark, Kenneth, The Romantic Rebellion: Romantic versus Classic Art, 1973, no. 251 p. 323
  • Russell, John, The Meanings of Modern Art, 1974, pp. 28, 29
  • Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Guggenheim Museum, Justin K. Thannhauser Collection, 1978, pp. 131-132
  • Love, R. H., Cassatt: The Independent, 1980, pl. 19 p. 51
  • Silverman, R., LearningAbout Art: a Practical Approach, 1982, p. 117-119
  • The French Impressionists in Southern California: Paintings, Sculptures, and Prints in Public Collections. A Guidebook and Catalogue, 1984,
  • Kelder, D., The Great Book of Post-Impressionism, 1986, fig. 35
  • Kennedy, Brian P., Irish Arts Review, 1987, no. 16 pp. 45, 48, 51
  • Love, R. H., Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet's Shadow, 1987, p. 141
  • Kendall, Richard, Degas by Himself, 1987, p. 164
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 149
  • Druick, Douglas, Renoir, 1992, fig. 17 p. 37
  • Campbell, Sara et al., Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, 2009, Fig. 7 p. 109
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 78 p. 254
  • Mancoff, Debra, Degas' Working Women, 2011, p. 46
  • Michel Schulman, Degas Catalogue Raisonné Online, 2021, MS-587
  • Britany Salsbury, Degas and the Laundress: Women, Work, and Impressionism, 2023, Fig. 74 pp. 91-92, p. 92, 208 (ill.)
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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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