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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Edgar Degas
1834 - 1917
ÉTUDE DE NU
stamped Degas (lower right); stamped faintly with the Atelier stamp on the reverse
charcoal on pink paper
58.9 by 45.2cm., 23 1/8 by 17 3/4 in.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau.

Provenance

Estate of the Artist (sale: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, Atelier Degas, 3ème Vente, 7-9th April 1919, lot 191)
Ambroise Vollard, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Sam Salz, Inc., New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above; sale: Sotheby's, New York, 12th November 1990, lot 2)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner

Catalogue Note

No other subjects in Degas' œuvre are as visually enticing and seductive as his bathers. These voyeuristic scenes of nude women, pampering themselves at their toilettes, have earned their place among the most desirable images in the history of modern art. At the turn of the century, Degas devoted his production almost exclusively to these intimate depictions so that he could study the contours of the female form at close proximity. Many of the models for these compositions were the young dancers from the ballet, who were now invited to pose for long hours in the drafty confines of Degas' studio. No matter how strenuous these sessions were for his models, their discomfort is never evident in these depictions. In this sensuous charcoal depiction of a standing female, Degas depicts his subject as she prepares to bathe. He captures a fleeting moment of movement, focusing on her torso as she leans forward and accentuating the elongation of the figure's legs. Her creamy pink flesh is expressed by the tone of the sheet, largely unadorned but for the deft charcoal shading.

As opposed to his studies of ballerinas, his renditions of bathers were freed from social expectations and the choreographed poses of the stage. Degas is quoted on this point as follows: 'Until now the nude has always been presented in poses which assume the presence of an audience, but these women of mine are decent, simple human beings who have no other concern than that of their physical condition [...] it is as though one were watching them through a keyhole' (quoted in Goetz Adriani, Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings, London, 1985, p. 86). Degas' achievement in the Bathers series is thus to continue a degree of realism previously unknown.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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London