Lot 19
  • 19

Edgar Degas

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
1,384,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Edgar Degas
  • Mlle Bécat aux Ambassadeurs (Café-Concert)

  • Signed Degas (lower left)
  • Pastel over lithograph


Georges Viau, Paris

Mme Zakarian, Paris

Jacques Seligmann, New York

C.M. de Hauke, New York

Joan Whitney Payson, Manhasset, New York (acquired from the above and thence by descent)


Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Degas, 1924, no. 213

Cambridge, The Fogg Art Museum, Degas, 1931, no. 24

Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Scènes et figures parisiennes, 1943

Kyoto, Municipal Museum; Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, The Joan Whitney Payson Collection: from Goya to Wyeth, 1980, no. 20

Philadelphia Museum of Art,  Edgar Degas: The Painter as Printmaker, 1985


Paul Lafond, Degas, vol. 2, Paris, 1918,  illustrated p. 38

Paul Jamot, Degas, Paris, 1924, illustrated pl. 48A

Paul-André Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. II, Paris, 1946,  no. 458, illustrated p. 251



Catalogue Note

Between 1877 and 1879, Degas executed a number of pastels over a printed base taking as their subject the performance of singers in popular nightclubs (Lemoisne, nos. 455, 459 – the present work, 538-541).  Each work is rendered on comparably small sheets with a closely cropped view of the performer.


“By the 1870s, Café-Concerts were the rage of Paris, combining the attractions of pub and concert hall en plein air.  During the summer of the outdoor Café-Concerts on the Champs-Elysées, such as the Café des Ambassadeurs, attracted throngs of patrons, who in the evening included a fair number of prostitutes.  The performers provided a humorous commentary in song and verse” (Anne Maheux, Degas Pastels, New York, 1992, p. 68).


Most of the performers in Degas’s depictions of these concerts remain anonymous, except for Mademoiselle Bécat, the subject of the present work, who appears in several other compositions including the magnificent, Café-Concert Singer Wearing a Glove of 1878.  Emilie Bécat, who was born in Marseilles, made her debut at the Café des Ambassadeurs in 1875 (approximately two years before the present work was executed).  She was famed for making wildly exaggerated and convulsive movements during her performances and was a favorite of the crowds who attended.  While some views of this singer were made with a bird’s eye view from the more costly, upper-class balconies,  this particular composition places the viewer towards the ground level, amongst the working-class attendants. 


Degas frequently used his lithographs and monotypes as a base for fully worked pastels, as in the case of the present work.  In the finest examples, such as Mlle Bécat aux Ambassadeurs (Café-Concert), he achieves a remarkable chromatic intensity and sense of light through the interplay of the brilliant and saturated strokes of pastel and the dark, lithographic base. This layering effect imparts a greater sense of volume and depth within the small picture plane, while heightening the luminosity of the pastel.   Here the lithograph, characterized by its rich tonal surface, serves as a backdrop for the addition of pastel, applied in short, spontaneous strokes.  Rather than completely transforming the monotype, Degas was content to leave traces of the smoky black print partially visible in the extreme foreground of the stage and the striping of the background wall.