Lot 196
  • 196

Edgar Degas

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Edgar Degas
  • Trois danseuses en maillot
  • Stamped Degas (lower left); stamped Atelier Ed. Degas (on the verso)
  • Charcoal heightened with white pastel on paper mounted on card
  • 18 1/2 by 14 7/8 in.
  • 47 by 37.8 cm


Estate of the artist (and sold: Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, Atelier Edgar Degas, 3ème vente, April 7-9, 1918, lot 172)
J. Fiquet, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Sir Kenneth Clark, United Kingdom
Janie C. Lee Gallery, Houston
Acquired in February 1987


New York, Janie C. Lee Gallery, Master Drawings, 1984, no. 3


Executed on buff-colored paper laid down on card, which in turn is hinged to a mat at two places at top edge on verso. A few tiny nicks to the extreme perimeter of the sheet. Artist pinholes in upper corners. Medium is strong and well preserved. Faint 1 cm mat stain around the extreme perimeter. Sheet is time darkened overall. Approximately 2 1/2 inch repaired tear to the left of the leftmost figure near center of left edge. Otherwise fine. This work is in 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.

Catalogue Note

An elegant and essential rendering of three dancers in motion, Trois danseuses en maillot depicts three dancers amidst of their daily practice. Degas' lifelong infatuation with dance developed in the 1860s when, as a young man, he regularly attended the ballet, the opera and the circus. Mesmerized by the spectacle and excitement of live entertainment, Degas discovered boundless inspiration. Sketching the performers from nature, he was able to study both the natural unguarded gestures of dancers at rest and the stylized movements of classical ballet. Degas was fascinated not only by the public spectacle of the performance, but also by the more informal situations around them: the behind-the-scenes world of the rehearsal room or the dance class, the dancers' preparation and anticipation of a performance, and the more relaxed, candid moments that followed afterwards.

Trois danseuses en maillot represents the grande finale of Degas' career, whence his treatment of dance as a subject underwent a radical metamorphosis. In his later decades, the artist's visits to the ballet became less frequent and he began working increasingly from models in his studio on the rue Victor Massé. Whereas visits to the ballet had only afforded Degas fleeting demonstrations of the dancers' choreographed movements, the privacy of the studio presented him with the opportunity to pose a model in his preferred environment. Moving away from the linear style of his early career, he adopted a freer, more spontaneous stroke, portending the automatism of the Surrealists and the hard edged line of the Abstract Expressionists.

A testament of the artist’s ability to convey motion and emotion through cultivated simplicity; the work is ultimately a celebration of the dancers' strength without the pomp or color of costume. Focusing fully on the forms in and of themselves, it is perhaps one of the artist’s most affectionate and intimate works from the period. It has been noted that: "no one observed more closely than Degas...the process by which 'common' Opéra dancers were transformed—through makeup, stylized costumes, and the distance between the proscenium and the audience—into 'priestesses of grace.' Much of his own art was concerned with this metamorphosis: research has increasingly revealed the extent to which his performance images were rooted in firsthand experience of the state rather than in his painterly imagination" (Degas and the Dance (exhibition catalogue), The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 2002-03, p. 157). Trois danseuses en maillot defines the artist’s commitment to his subjects outside their metaphorical selves, capturing their inherent elegance sensitively and energetically.