Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917)
c. 1879-1882
Pastel on beige laid paper 
19 x 24 in. (48.2 x 61 cm) 
Credit Line:
Jointly owned by the Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

With its raking composition and abrupt contrast of black and white, this picture grants us a glimpse backstage at the Paris Opéra without revealing any clear, coherent narrative. The two figures, each apparently absorbed in her own thoughts, may represent a young dancer and her chaperone or, indeed, one dancer dressed for rehearsal and another in street clothes. Only their shared sense of exhaustion and anxiety is clear—suggesting, perhaps, the anticipation or aftermath of an examination. Degas, as no artist before or since, took a keen interest in the physical routine of ballet dancers’ lives, the labor behind their art. At the Opéra, examinations played an important role in this routine, determining dancers’ salaries and professional advancement.


Léon-Marie Clapisson, Paris, before 1882, sold for frf. 6000 on 21 April 1892 to;
[Galerie Durand Ruel, Paris (stock number 2124), sold for f. 15,000 on 19 September 1895 to];
H. O. and Louisine Havemeyer, New York, until 1907;
Louisine Havemeyer, New York, 1907-1929, by descent to her son;
Horace Havemeyer, New York, 1929-1956, by descent to his widow;
Doris Dick Havemeyer, New York, 1956-1982 (sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 18 May 1983, lot 8, to);
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena, and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (JPG #83.GG.219).

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via email. Requests can also be made by fax or mail.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Please fill out our Online Reproduction Request Form.

E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (626) 449-6840 x 3300
Fax: (626) 796-4978

Additional Artwork by Artist