Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Dance Lesson

Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
ca. 1879
Pastel and black chalk on three pieces of wove paper, joined together
25 3/8 x 22 1/8 in. (64.5 x 56.2 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Gift of Adaline Havemeyer Perkins, in memory of her father, Horace Havemeyer, 1971
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 816
Degas made various adjustments to this composition, presumably to accommodate the violinist in his final design. He added strips of paper at the top and to the right, and there is evidence to suggest that he may have altered the dancer's pose. A pastel study for the musician is in the Museum's collection (19.51.1). The present work was formerly owned by Gustave Caillebotte, who probably bought it from or soon after the Impressionist exhibition of 1879. In 1894 he bequeathed it to Renoir, who sold it shortly thereafter.
Inscription: Signed (upper right): Degas
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris (probably bought from the 4th Impressionist exhibition in 1879–until d. 1894; deposited with Durand-Ruel, Paris, January 29–November 30, 1886; deposit no. 4691; consigned by Durand-Ruel to the American Art Association, New York, February 19–November 8, 1886; bequeathed to Renoir); Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris (1894–98; deposited with Durand-Ruel, Paris, March 13, 1894–May 13, 1895; deposit no. 8398; sold on December 12, 1898 for Fr 5,000 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1898; stock no. 4879; sold on December 31, 1898 to Durand-Ruel, New York ]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1898–99; stock no. 2071; sold on January 3, 1899 for Fr 27,750 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1899–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 386–87, ill.); her son, Horace Havemeyer, New York (from 1929); his daughter, Adaline Havemeyer Perkins (until 1971)
Paris. 28, avenue de l'Opéra. "4me exposition de peinture [4th Impressionist exhibition]," April 10–May 11, 1879, no. 74 (as "Portrait de danseuse, à la leçon. [Pastel]").

New York. American Art Association. "Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris," April 10–28, 1886, no. 63 (as "Le Violon").

New York. National Academy of Design. "Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris," May 25–June 30, 1886, no. 63 (as "Le Violon").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat. (p. 43).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 23 (of works on paper).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 218.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A226.

Max Liebermann. "Degas." Pan 4 (November 1898–April 1899), ill. p. 196.

Julie Manet. Journal entries. November 16 and 29, 1899 [published in Julie Manet, "Journal (1893–1899)," Paris, 1979, pp. 279, 282], recounts Yvonne Lerolle's description of the quarrel between Degas and Renoir over the latter's sale of a Degas pastel [this work].

Max Liebermann. Degas. Berlin, 1902, ill. p. 7.

Gustave Geffroy. "Degas." L'Art et les artistes 7 (April–September 1908), p. 20, ill. p. 22.

George Moore. "Degas." Kunst und Künstler 6 (1908), ill. p. 103.

Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 2, Paris, 1919, p. 31, ill. before p. 37, calls it "Danseuse s'exerçant à la barre" in the text, and "La Répétition au violon" in the caption.

Julius Meier-Graefe. Degas. Munich, 1920, pl. 47 [English ed., 1923], dates it about 1878.

Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, p. 152, pl. 63, as "La Répétition au violon"; dates it about 1882–84.

Ambroise Vollard. Degas (1834–1917). Paris, 1924, ill. opp. p. 100.

Ambroise Vollard. Degas, An Intimate Portrait. New York, 1927, ill. p. 40.

Arsène Alexandre. "La collection Havemeyer, 2e Étude: Degas." La Renaissance 12 (October 1929), p. 484, ill. p. 480.

H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 386–87, ill., dates it about 1878–82.

Georges Rivière. Mr. Degas: Bourgeois de Paris. Paris, 1935, ill. p. 83.

Arsène Alexandre. "Degas: Nouveaux aperçus." L'Art et les artistes, n.s., 29 (February 1935), ill. p. 167.

Ambroise Vollard. Recollections of a Picture Dealer. London, 1936, pp. 19–20, describes Renoir's selection of this picture from Caillebotte's estate; asserts that Renoir sold it to Durand-Ruel because he had "tired of seeing the musician forever bending over his violin, while the dancer, one leg in the air, awaited the chord that should give the signal for her pirouette," and recounts the subsequent quarrel with Degas.

Sam A. Lewisohn. Painters and Personality: A Collector's View of Modern Art. [New York], 1937, pl. 42.

Camille Mauclair. Degas. London, [1937], p. 167, pl. 130, calls it "The Dancing-Lesson with Violinist" and dates it about 1882–84.

John Rewald. Edgar Degas. Mulhouse, France, [194_?], fig. 41, calls it "La Répétition au violon" and dates it 1882–84.

P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, p. 116; vol. 2, pp. 248–49, no. 450, ill., dates it about 1877–78; wonders if it was no. 74 in the 4th Impressionist exhibition; lists two studies for the violinist: MMA 19.51.1 (L451) and no. 247b in the 4th Degas sale (now Minneapolis Institute of Arts).

Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, [1949], pp. 371–72, pl. 101, calls it "Exercices à la barre au violon" and dates it about 1882–84.

Jeanne Baudot. Renoir: Ses amis, ses modèles. Paris, 1949, p. 23, states that Renoir accepted Durand-Ruel's offer of Fr 45,000 [sic] for a work by Degas [this picture] during an acute attack of rheumatism when he was unable to work and feared for his family's future, but that Degas did not understand Renoir's concern and broke off relations with him.

Douglas Cooper. Pastels by Edgar Degas. New York, [1952?], p. 18, under no. 11, calls it "The Dancing Class: Exercises at the Barre"; lists the MMA and the Minneapolis drawings as preparatory studies for this picture; mentions two other drawings of the same violinist (3rd Degas sale, nos. 113b and 164b) as studies for the painting "The Dancing Class" (known as "The Rehearsal," The Frick Collection, New York; L537).

Peter A. Wick. "Degas' Violinist." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 57, no. 310 (1959), p. 97, discusses the related works in various media depicting violinists.

Jean Sutherland Boggs. Drawings by Degas. Exh. cat., City Art Museum of Saint Louis. St. Louis, 1966, p. 154.

Fiorella Minervino in L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 110, no. 503, ill., dates it 1877–78.

"Outstanding Recent Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (April/May 1972), p. 257, ill. on cover (color) and p. 257, dates it about 1879 and notes that it is one of Degas's first pastels; points out the lines in the composition indicating where Degas enlarged the picture by adding strips of paper.

Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 91, ill.

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. 137 (notebook 31, p. 67), identifies it as "Portrait de danseuse (pastel)" on a list of works drawn up in preparation for the 4th Impressionist exhibition.

Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 11, colorpl. 22, dates it 1877–78 and states that the dancer glances into a mirror that we do not see.

Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, colorpl. 128, dates it 1879.

Joel Isaacson. The Crisis of Impressionism: 1878–1882. Exh. cat., University of Michigan Museum of Art. [Ann Arbor, Mich.], 1979, pp. 34, 88, fig. 3, dates it about 1877–78 on p. 34, and about 1879 on p. 88.

Ronald Pickvance. Degas 1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1979, p. 23, under no. 25, tentatively identifies it with no. 74 in the 4th Impressionist exhibition; suggests that the pastel of a violinist inscribed 1880 (formerly private collection, Zurich) was the last of the sequence of violinist pictures and was conceived as an independent work [see Ref. Brame and Reff 1984].

Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, pp. 301–2, 315–16 n. 37, fig. 111.

Keith Roberts. Degas. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1976]. Oxford, 1982, fig. 7, dates it 1879.

Philippe Brame and Theodore Reff. Degas et son oeuvre: A Supplement. New York, 1984, p. 108, under no. 99, redate it 1880 to correspond with the date inscribed on the large pastel of the violinist (formerly private collection, Zürich), which they call "probably the last of three studies of the same violinist, made in preparation for" our picture [see Ref. Pickvance 1979].

Götz Adriani. Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. New York, 1985, p. 377, under no. 138, dates it before the large pastel violinist of 1880, and asserts that the two works were drawn from different models.

John House in Renoir. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. [London], 1985, pp. 266–67, 306, 308, fig. a [French ed., pp. 296, 387, 390, fig. 51], dates it about 1878; compares its composition to Renoir's "Breakfast at Berneval" (private collection), which was painted during the time Renoir owned our picture.

Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 133, pl. 90, dates it about 1877–78.

Ronald Pickvance in The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 268, identifies this picture as no. 74 in the 4th Impressionist exhibition.

Michael Pantazzi in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 333–35, no. 218, ill. (color), calls it "Portrait of a Dancer at Her Lesson (The Dance Lesson)" and dates it about 1879; observes that the MMA drawing of the violinist was executed on the back of a bookseller's advertisement in which all of the books date before 1878, refuting Brame and Reff's [Ref. 1984] proposal that the 1880 pastel served as a preparatory study; identifies this pastel as no. 74 in the 4th Impressionist exhibition, noting the rarity of Degas's representations of single dancers; suggests that Degas changed the pose of the dancer from his original conception when he decided to include the violinist in the composition; mentions three related drawings of the dancer (Eugene Chesrow Trust, Chicago; 2nd Degas sale, no. 220b; L460bis).

Impressionist and Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Sotheby's, London. April 4, 1989, unpaginated, under no. 11, dates it 1880, calling the large, dated pastel of the violinist (formerly private collection, Zurich) one of three studies for it; states, however, that the violinist in the large pastel is a different model; identifies the instrument in all of the related pictures as a viola rather than a violin.

Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 323, identify it as no. 74 in the 4th Impressionist exhibition.

Anne Distel. Impressionism: The First Collectors. New York, 1990, pp. 260–61.

Henri Loyrette. Degas. Paris, 1991, p. 612.

Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, p. 142, fig. 78, dates it 1877–78.

Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux. Degas Pastels. New York, 1992, p. 181.

Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 257, 337 n. 376.

Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 225, colorpl. 213.

Philippe de Montebello in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. viii.

Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 331, no. A226, ill. p. 330.

Jean Sutherland Boggs in Degas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, p. 94.

Anne Distel in Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. Chicago, 1995, pp. 319–20, 324, fig. 9 [French ed., "Gustave Caillebotte, 1848–1894," Paris, 1994, pp. 31–32, 38–39, fig. 9], identifies it as the work listed in Caillebotte's estate inventory as "un dessin du même [Degas] dans un cadre blanc".

Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 205, 210, 212–13, 251; vol. 2, p. 111, no. IV-74, ill. p. 130.

Rebecca A. Rabinow in Degas and America: The Early Collectors. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2000, p. 38, fig. 6 (color).

David Bomford et al. in Art in the Making: Degas. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2004, p. 32, fig. 28, proposes that Degas's notations at the upper right were instructions for the additions of paper along the top and right side edges.

Colin B. Bailey in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 38.

A partially legible inscription in graphite in the artist's hand at the upper right reads: "9c à droite / 3c en haut / . . . coté pour . . . / refaire . . ." [see Ref. Bomford et. al. 2004].

Three related drawings by Degas depict a violinist in the same pose seen in this pastel. Two of these are certainly studies for "The Dance Lesson" and depict the same model; one is in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (4th Degas sale, no. 247b) and one in the MMA (acc. no. 19.51.1; L451). The third drawing (BR99; sold, Sotheby's, London, April 4, 1989, no. 11), a large pastel depicting a different model, is signed and dated "Degas / 80."

There are also three drawings related to the dancer (Eugene Chesrow Trust, Chicago; 2nd Degas sale, no. 220b; L460bis).
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