This painting dates from a period in which Degas created numerous works based on well-known paintings; this personal exploration of the past, whose value had already been evident earlier to independent artists like Delacroix, was most characteristic of the 1860s. In fact, Degas is reported to have met Manet for the first time when both were etching copies of Velazquez’s Infanta Margarita in 1860. The subject of the present work, namely that of a delicate postured girl, dressed in a ballet costume, anticipates a theme which came to dominate a large proportion of Degas’ œuvre. A product of Degas’ desire to artistically develop his skill by learning through looking to the past, Fillette portant des fleurs dans son tablier suggests the colour and luminosity of Lawrence’s original yet reflects Degas’s innate virtuosity in imbuing the character of the individual. The majority of the other works from the series during this time are of historical or biblical subjects, inspired by artists such as Titian, Bellini, Poussin and Mantenga and while Degas acknowledged the importance of history painting as the apex of artistic achievement, this work epitomises the more relaxed, contemporary subject matter which profoundly distinguishes Degas’ artistic corpus. This work has been part of the eminent Gutzwiller Collection.
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