The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau.
Estate of the artist (and sold: Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, Atelier Edgar Degas, 4ème vente, July 2-4, 1919, lot 94b) Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 7, 1947, lot 41 Private Collection, South America Acquired from the above
Although Degas was a painter, printmaker and sculptor as well, his drawings are among the most intimate and spontaneous reflections of the rather reserved personality of the artist. Drawing was for Degas, as it was for many artists, an initial response or reaction to an idea, and Degas recorded hundreds of these reactions over his career. As a collector of drawings himself, Degas did not consider drawings to be casual productions or a lesser art form, but rather things to be “prized, framed and even hung on a wall” (Jean Sutherland Boggs, Drawings by Degas (exhibition catalogue), City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis & traveling, 1966, p. 16).
In his early drawings, we can see the intense respect for the past and artistic tradition the artist held, who as a young boy would spend days copying paintings in the Louvre and prints at the Bibliothèque nationale. Even within the restrictions of the subjects of his early drawings, Degas proved to have a probing and adventurous spirit. “What comes across most obviously in the portraits, and even in the copies and sketches for historical works, is a concern for the psychology of the human being, particularly the human being in a dramatic moment” (ibid., p. 17). Rather than imbuing his academic nudes and studies with a classical sense of static, he instead rendered them with a distinct sense of human drama. In the present work, the drama is quite literally visible on the surface of the sheet, in the theatrical power of strong light and shadow created by the charcoal and the estompe used to blend the medium. The effect is furthered in the subject's twisted and anguished face. Degas made three other drawings of this curly-haired and bearded man in various poses, and he was clearly interested in the dramatic possibilities of a head of such forceful features. The present work is among the most intense; the figure’s eyes are turned upward and his mouth is open in a pose that recalls the heavenly pleas depicted by seventeenth-century Baroque painters (see fig. 1).
Executed on cream coloured wove paper which has not been laid down. There is glue and tape residue along the top, bottom and left edges. Two pinholes to paper in the upper left quadrant and another in the lower right. Some scattered foxing to sheet, particularly visible to the lower left and lower right quadrants. The pigment is fresh and strong. The work is in overall good condition. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.