Stamped with the signature Degas (Lugt 658) (lower right)
The artist's studio
Sale: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 2ème Vente Atelier Edgar Degas, December 11-13, 1918, lot 255)
M. Descours, Lyon (acquired at the above sale)
By descent from the above to the present owner
Femme se coiffant belongs to a small series of pastels and charcoals featuring a woman combing her hair. The most highly-finished of this series is La toilette, now in the Tate in London (fig. 1). While Lemoisne dates this series to circa 1894, Richard Kendall dates it to circa 1896-99 (see: Richard Kendall, Degas, Beyond Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London and The Art Institute of Chicago, 1996-97, pp. 226-28). In the present work, as in La toilette, Degas was able to transform an everyday experience into a powerful symbol of feminine sensuality.
As Richard Kendall suggested, 'the subject of the coiffure, where a solitary woman combs her hair or has it brushed by a maid, inspired some of the finest pictorial inventions of Degas' last years. Though it had featured briefly in his early repertoire, the theme seized Degas' imagination afresh in the 1890s and prompted a profusion of drawings, pastels and oil paintings, even lithographs and wax sculptures... All demonstrated the artist's extraordinary ability to find visual and psychological drama in the humblest incidents of everyday life' (R. Kendall, op. cit., p. 218).
Fig. I, Edgar Degas, La Toilette, pastel on paper, executed circa 1894, Tate, London
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