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The Dancing Class

Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)

Date:
ca. 1870
Medium:
Oil on wood
Dimensions:
7 3/4 x 10 5/8 in. (19.7 x 27 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
29.100.184
  • Gallery Label

    This is Degas's first depiction of a dance class. Because the artist did not yet have privileges to go backstage at the Paris Opéra, his subjects came to his studio to pose. These sessions yielded many large study drawings, which Degas subsequently adapted for other compositions. In the late 1870s, he explained, "I have painted so many of these dance examinations without having seen them that I am a little ashamed of it."

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): Degas

  • Provenance

    [Durand-Ruel, Paris, bought from the artist in January 1872; stock no. 943; traded, together with a painting by Henry Levy and one by Héreau, on January 16, 1872, for two paintings by Zamacoïs, two by Richet, and Fr 1,500, to Premsel]; Premsel, ?Paris (1872; traded, together with Fr 6,000, on January 30, 1872, for a painting by Corot valued at Fr 7,000, to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1872; stock no. 979; traded on February 6, 1872, for a painting by Puvis de Chavannes, one by Brandon, and Fr 500 to Brandon]; Jacques-Émile-Édouard Brandon, Paris (1872–at least 1874); [Durand-Ruel, Paris and London, 1876]; Captain Henry Hill, Brighton (from 1875 or 1876–d. 1882; his estate, 1882–89; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 25, 1889, no. 26, as "A pas de deux," for gns 41 to Wallis); [Wallis & Son, London, from 1889]; Michel Manzi, Paris (until d. 1915); his widow, Charlotte Manzi, Paris (1915–16, sold on December 5, 1916 through Mary Cassatt to Havemeyer); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1916–d. 1929; cat., 1931, p. 117, ill.)

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. boulevard des Capucines, 35. "Première exposition, 1874 [1st Impressionist exhibition]," April 15–May 15, 1874, no. 55 (as "Classe de danse," lent by M. Brandon).

    London. Deschamps Gallery. "Twelfth Exhibition of Pictures by Modern French Artists," Spring 1876, no. 2 (as "The Practising Room").

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Loan Exhibition of French Masterpieces of the Late XIX Century," March 20–April 10, 1928, no. 6 (as "La leçon au foyer," lent anonymously, probably this picture).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 48 (as "The Foyer") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 105].

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Centenaire de l'impressionnisme," September 21–November 24, 1974, no. 15.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, no. 15.

    Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 66.

    Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 66.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 11 (of paintings).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 106.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A203.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 68.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19.Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    [Philippe Burty]. "Exposition de la société anonyme des artistes." La République française (April 25, 1874), p. 2 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 37].

    Étienne Carjat. "L'Exposition du boulevard des Capucines." Le Patriote français (April 27, 1874), p. 3 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 14].

    Ernest Chesneau. "A côté du Salon: II. Le Plein Air: Exposition du boulevard des Capucines." Paris-Journal (May 7, 1874), p. 2 [also published in Le Soir, May 7, 1874, p. 3; reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 19].

    E. d'H. "L'Exposition du boulevard des Capucines." Le Rappel (April 17, 1874), p. 2 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 24].

    C. de Malte. "Exposition de la société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs et lithographes." Paris à l'eau-forte (April 19, 1874), pp. 12–13 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 28], possibly this picture.

    Marc de Montifaud. "Le Salon de 1874: Exposition du boulevard des Capucines." L'Artiste, 9, 19 (May 1, 1874), pp. 309–10.

    "The Deschamps Galleries, Bond Street." Art Journal, n.s., 15 (1876), p. 211.

    "Society of French Artists, New Bond Street." Athenæum no. 2530 (April 22, 1876), p. 571, praises its "breadth and softness of effect" but finds it "slovenly in form".

    Mary Cassatt. Letter to Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer. [1916] [excerpt printed in Refs. Burroughs 1932 and Havemeyer 1993], writes about this picture that "When Degas saw it, he turned away and said: 'When I did that I had my eyes!' Of course that was years ago—he could not see the picture now. Think what his eyes must have been when he painted it!".

    Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55, ill. p. 57.

    H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 117, ill.

    Louise Burroughs. "Degas in the Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (May 1932), p. 144.

    P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, pp. 69, 71; vol. 2, pp. 148–49, no. 297, ill., calls it "Le foyer" and dates it 1872; suggests that it may have been painted before "Le foyer de la danse à l'Opera de la rue Le Pelletier" (Musée d'Orsay, Paris; L298); identifies it as the painting "Répétition de danse" mentioned by René de Gas in a July 12, 1872 letter; mentions a study for the central figure (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.).

    John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. New York, 1946, ill. p. 232 and opp. p. 232 (color detail), calls it "Foyer de Danse" and dates it about 1873.

    Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, [1949], pp. 53–54, 60, 338, 341, pl. 17, colorpl. II, calls it "La Leçon de danse" and dates it about 1872; identifies the setting as the opera house in the rue Le Peletier; suggests that Josephine Gaugelin may have posed for the central figure, based on a resemblance to two sketches inscribed by Degas with her name (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; formerly collection Olivier Senn, now Adolf and Luisa Haeuser-Stiftung, Frankfurt, deposited with the Graphische Sammlung des Städelschen Kunstinstituts).

    Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Degas: From Classicist to Modern." Art News 48 (April 1949), p. 21, compares the rhythmic arrangement of forms in space to that of Vermeer and the cool, neutral colors to those of Velázquez.

    Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, [1957], pp. 97, 107–9, no. 36, colorpl. 36 [English ed., 1958, pp. 97, 108–9, no. 36, colorpl. 36], calls it "The Dance Foyer" and dates it 1872.

    Peter A. Wick. "Degas' Violinist." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 57, no. 310 (1959), pp. 90–91, 93, calls it "Le foyer" and dates it about 1872; notes that of five pictures depicting a seated violin player in a dancing class, this and the Orsay painting (L298) were executed before the fire which destroyed the opera house.

    Vlastimil Fiala. Edgar Degas. Prague, 1961, pl. 15.

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 265–66, describes this picture's acquisition through Mary Cassatt.

    John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1961, ill. p. 279 (color), calls it "Le Foyer" and dates it about 1872.

    Ronald Pickvance. "Degas's Dancers: 1872–6." Burlington Magazine 105 (June 1963), pp. 256–59, 265 n. 82, p. 266, dates it 1872; disagrees with Lemoisne's [Ref. 1946] identification of this picture as the "Répétition de danse" described by René Degas as having been seen in Degas's studio in July 1872, since it had been sold in January of that year; observes that for the first time, here and in the Orsay picture, Degas deals with the organization of figure groups in an interior and asserts that none of the poses of the figures were used again in subsequent dance pictures.

    Phoebe Pool. Degas. London, 1963, p. 40.

    Jean Bouret. Degas. New York, 1965, pp. 67, 90.

    Lillian Browse. "Degas's Grand Passion." Apollo 85 (February 1967), pp. 107–8, calls it "La leçon de danse".

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX–XX Centuries." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3, New York, 1967, pp. 69–71, ill., call it "The Dancing Class".

    Theodore Reff. "The Pictures within Degas's Pictures." Metropolitan Museum Journal 1 (1968), p. 126.

    Fiorella Minervino in L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 99, no. 296, ill.

    John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. 4th rev. ed. New York, 1973, ill. p. 279 (color).

    John Rewald. "The Impressionist Brush." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 32, no. 3 (1973/1974), p. 24, no. 13, ill., dates it about 1871.

    Carl R. Baldwin The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Impressionist Epoch. [New York], 1974, ill. p. 13.

    Charles S. Moffett in Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1974, pp. 94–98, no. 15, ill. (overall in color and detail) [French ed., "Centenaire de l'impressionnisme," Éditions des musées nationaux, Paris, 1974], dates it probably late 1871.

    Bernard Dunstan. Painting Methods of the Impressionists. New York, 1976, p. 108, ill., dates it 1872.

    Theodore Reff. The Notebooks of Edgar Degas: A Catalogue of the Thirty-Eight Notebooks in the Bibliothèque Nationale and Other Collections. Oxford, 1976, vol. 1, p. 7 n. 2, pp. 9, 21, 115 (notebook 22, p. 203), 119–20 (notebook 24, pp. 22–23, 34), catalogues three sketches for the piano in this painting and reproduces one of them (vol. 2, notebook 24, p. 34).

    Eduard Hüttinger. Degas. New York, 1978, pp. 58, 67.

    Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, pp. 95, 117, 125, pl. 86, dates it 1871–72 in the caption and erroneously traces its origin to Degas's visits to the practice rooms at the Opéra during the summer of 1872 [it was already in Durand-Ruel's possession in January 1872].

    Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pp. 10–11, colorpl. 17, dates it about 1871.

    Eugénie de Keyser. Degas: Réalité et métaphore. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1981, pp. 19, 26–27, 60–61, 66, 95, pl. XXIV, dates it 1872.

    Theodore Reff. "Degas and De Valernes in 1872." Arts Magazine 56 (September 1981), p. 126, dates it 1872.

    Keith Roberts. Degas. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1976]. Oxford, 1982, unpaginated, under no. 11, fig. 18, dates it 1872.

    Suzanne Folds McCullagh in Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1984, p. 56.

    Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 209–10, 214, 220, 223, 225, 246, 248–49, ill. p. 208, dates it winter 1871–72.

    George T. M. Shackelford. Degas: The Dancers. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1984, pp. 27–28, 41 n. 20, pp. 43, 45, fig. 1.4, calls it "The Rehearsal Room" and dates it about 1871; considers this picture "essentially conservative" and sees the influence of Eugène Lami, Watteau, Lancret, and Pater.

    Charles F. Stuckey in Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, pp. 30, 34, fig. 27 (color).

    Götz Adriani. Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. New York, 1985, p. 59.

    Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 66–67, 250, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it probably late 1871.

    Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, pp. 86, 97, 99–100, 207 n. 12, fig. 53, dates it about 1872; asserts that in pictures such as this one depicting dancers' absorption in private moments behind the scenes "Degas essentially was titillating his bourgeois audience by showing it a world to which its members did not have access but which they yearned to possess"; relates this picture's size and subject matter to the small format aristocratic scenes of "the privileged, gentlemanly life" of the 1830–60s by Lami, Morin, Guys, and Gavarni.

    Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 231, pl. 157.

    Richard Thomson. The Private Degas. Exh. cat., Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. London, 1987, p. 46, calls it "The Rehearsal Room".

    Richard Kendall. "Degas and the Contingency of Vision." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), p. 192, remarks that due to Degas's failing vision "the group of highly focused pictures of the early 1870s," such as this picture, "has no counterpart in his later work".

    Eunice Lipton. "Anxiety at the Met." Artforum 27 (October 1988), pp. 103–4, ill., mentions this painting as an example of Degas's use of mirrors, noting that "their incompleteness—their fragments, the dizzying spaces, the vagueness of their images—and their refusal to sum up, to conclude, are both unnerving and enticing".

    Henri Loyrette in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 174–77, no. 106, ill. (color), calls it "Dance Class" and dates it 1871; notes that Degas was not allowed backstage at the Opéra until about fifteen years after painting this picture, although he could visit the premises during the day and had dancers pose in his studio; identifies the central figure as Joséphine Gaujelin [see Ref. Browse 1949, who spells it Gaugelin] and interprets the violinist to actually be the ballet master, who resembles a friend of Degas's named Gard; observes the influence of Dutch and Flemish painting.

    Mari Kálmán Meller. "Exercises in and around Degas's Classrooms: Part I." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), pp. 208–10, 212, fig. 25 (color), calls it "Rehearsal Room" and dates it about 1871; compares its interior setting to that of "The Bellelli Family" (1858–67; Musée d'Orsay; L79), remarking on the influence of Velázquez; considers the calm atmosphere and rapport depicted between the violinist and dancers "an uncharacteristic start to the classroom series"; asserts that in this and the Orsay dance class picture (L298) Degas is "seeking to build up a language appropriate to his contemporary subject" and is still influenced by eighteenth-century prototypes.

    Michael Pantazzi in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 331.

    Gary Tinterow in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 391.

    Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 291, identify it as no. 55 in the 1st Impressionist exhibition.

    Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, pp. 9, 50, 52–53, fig. 1, dates it 1872; discusses Montifaud's review [Ref. 1874] as explicitly stating "that nudity, impropriety, sexual innuendo, states of dress and undress were all part of the content of the dance pictures".

    Richard Kendall. "Signs and Non-Signs: Degas' Changing Strategies of Representation." Dealing with Degas: Representations of Women and the Politics of Vision. London, 1992, pp. 186–87, 189–91, 193, fig. 42, calls it "Dance Class" and dates it 1871; discusses this picture among the early depictions of female subjects within detailed settings that reveal Degas's "commitment to social documentation"; discusses its relationship to later representations of the same subject, especially "Group of Dancers" (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) of about 1898.

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 257, 265–66, 337 n. 376, pp. 339–40 n. 397.

    Chuji Ikegami. "Period of Impressionism." New History of World Art. 22, Tokyo, 1993, fig. 56.

    Henri Loyrette. Degas: The Man and His Art. New York, 1993, pp. 67–69, ill. (color).

    Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 271, 285, colorpl. 267.

    Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 327, no. A203, ill. p. 326.

    Jean Sutherland Boggs in Degas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, pp. 49–50, ill., calls it "Dancing Class" and dates it 1871; asserts that Joséphine Gaujelin posed in his studio for the central figure of a dancer.

    "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 14, 19, 24, 28–29, 37; vol. 2, p. 7, no. I-55, ill. p. 22.

    Five Impressionist Works of Art: Property of the Shelburne Museum. Sotheby's, New York. November 12, 1996, unpaginated, under no. 10.

    Impressionist and Modern Art, Part I: Property from the Collection of Charles Tabachnick. Sotheby's, London. June 24, 1997, p. 18.

    Richard Kendall. Degas and the Little Dancer. Exh. cat., Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. New Haven, 1998, pp. 5–6, 177 n. 13, fig. 1.

    Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Dance. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 2002, pp. 79, 135, 287 n. 29, colorpl. 143, date it about 1871–72; suggest that Degas may have used photographs of the interior of the Opéra to paint its rehearsal rooms; mention "numerous preparatory studies" for this and the Orsay picture, reproducing one of two dancers at the barre (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam).

    Impressionist & Modern Art: Part One. Sotheby's, New York. May 6, 2003, p. 43.

    Madeleine Korn. "Exhibitions of Modern French Art and Their Influence on Collectors in Britain 1870–1918: The Davies Sisters in Context." Journal of the History of Collections 16, no. 2 (2004), pp. 196, 208, 213, as "La Classe de danse"; dates it 1871.

    Richard Thomson in Anna Gruetzner Robins and Richard Thomson. Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2005, pp. 26, 29, fig. 8 (color).

    Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 112, 241, no. 101, ill. (color and black and white).

    Gary Tinterow in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 99, 209, no. 68, ill. (color and black and white).

    Jill DeVonyar in Annette Dixon. The Dancer: Degas, Forain, Toulouse-Lautrec. Exh. cat., Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oreg., 2008, p. 220, fig. 11 (color).

    Richard Kendall in Annette Dixon. The Dancer: Degas, Forain, Toulouse-Lautrec. Exh. cat., Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oreg., 2008, p. 43, fig. 1 (color).

    Alastair Macaulay. "Degas's Ballet Students Teach the Lessons of Their Art." New York Times (September 3, 2008), p. E5.

    Michael Pantazzi in Jane Kinsman. Degas: The Uncontested Master. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2008, pp. 242, 260 n. 19.

    Elizabeth Cowling in Elizabeth Cowling and Richard Kendall. Picasso Looks at Degas. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2010, p. 317 n. 98, dates it about 1871–72.



  • Notes

    A similar composition, "Dance Class at the Opéra," is in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (1872; L298). The central figure of the dancer has been identified as Joséphine Gaujelin [see Ref. Loyrette 1988], whose portrait by Degas is in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (1867; L165).

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