Dancers in the Wings

Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
c. 1876-1878
Pastel, gouache, distemper, and "essence" on paper, mounted on board 
27-1/4 x 19-3/4 in. (69.2 x 50.2 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

Combining pastel, pastel paste, gouache, distemper (glue-based paint), and peinture à l’essence (conventional paint drained of its oil), this picture is among the most technically sophisticated in Degas’s oeuvre. Color is applied wet, with a brush, for the reverse of a stage flat at left and in rapid, liquid skeins for the ornaments in the dancers’ hair, but dry pastel, rubbed over the bare laid paper, creates an airy effect in the tutus. Degas seems to have begun the composition with the dancer in pink and built it outward, adding nine strips of paper around the edges to make room for her companion, dressed as a butterfly. This costume has been identified with a specific ballet, La Source (The Spring), danced at the Paris Opéra in the 1875–76 season.


Madame de Clermont, Paris, 1899.
[Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, stock no. 1261, by at 1914 (possibly by 1912), sold 1928 to];
[Reid & Lefevre, London, stock no. 316/28, owned jointly with M. Knoedler & Co., Paris and New York, stock no. A603, sold 15 October 1929 to];
Mrs. Edouard L. Jonas (Mrs. H. Harris Jonas, 1884–1974), Paris and New York, to;
[Wildenstein, New York, sold 2 March 1977 to];
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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