Degas used an elongated frieze format for more than forty rehearsal scenes made over the course of two decades. This is one of the first such works; it was preceded by The Dance Lesson (ca. 1879, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Here, the angled wall in the foreground sets off the striking juxtaposition of a double bass and a seated dancer, bent over to tie the laces of her slipper. Technical analysis reveals that Degas painted the complex composition in virtually a single campaign with only minor revisions.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Degas
[Alexander Reid, Glasgow, by 1891–92; sold in 1892 to Kay]; Arthur Kay, Glasgow (1892–93; sold in April 1893 to Martin et Camentron); [Martin et Camentron, Paris, 1893–95; sold on May 28, 1895, for Fr 8,000 to Durand-Ruel]; [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1895; stock no. 3318; sold on November 20 for Fr 20,000 to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1895–96; stock no. 1445; sold on March 23, 1896, for $6,000 to Milliken]; E. F. Milliken, New York (1896–1902; his sale, American Art Association, New York, February 14, 1902, no. 11, as "Les Coulisses," for $6,100 to Durand-Ruel for Havemeyer); Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1902–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, p. 119)
London. Mr. Collie's Rooms. "A Small Collection of Pictures by Degas and Others," December 18, 1891–January 8, 1892, no. 20 (as "La Répétition").
Glasgow. La Société des Beaux Arts. "A Small Collection of Pictures by Degas and Others," February 1892, no catalogue.
London. Grafton Galleries. "First Exhibition, consisting of Paintings & Sculpture, by British & Foreign Artists of the Present Day," February 18–?, 1893, no. 301A (as "The Rehearsal").
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Art Galleries. "First Annual Exhibition," November 5, 1896–January 1, 1897, no. 86 (as "Repetition of the Dance").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 54 (as "The Rehearsal Room") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 112].
Wooster, Ohio. Josephine Long Wishart Museum of Art. "Exhibition of Paintings of French, Italian, Dutch, Flemish and German Masters, lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 20–December 15, 1944, unnumbered cat. (p. 6, as "The Rehearsal Room").
Newark Museum. "19th-Century French and American Paintings from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 9–May 15, 1946, no. 13 (as "The Rehearsal Room").
Pittsburgh. Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute. "Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings from Previous Internationals, 1896–1955," December 5, 1958–February 8, 1959, no. 1.
Corning, N.Y. Corning Museum of Glass. "Three Hundred Years of Ballet," July 15–August 15, 1961, no catalogue.
Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "Five Centuries of European Painting," May 16–October 26, 1963, unnumbered cat. (p. 47).
Edinburgh. Scottish Arts Council. "A Man of Influence: Alex Reid, 1854–1928," October 21–November 11, 1967, no. 23 (as "Danseuses avec contrebasse").
Haus der Kunst München. "World Cultures and Modern Art," June 16–September 30, 1972, no. 742 (as "Dancers at Rehearsal").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 16 (of paintings).
Richmond. Virginia Museum. "Degas," May 23–July 9, 1978, no. 12.
New York. Acquavella Galleries. "Edgar Degas," November 1–December 3, 1978, no. 40.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland. "Degas 1879," August 13–September 30, 1979, no. 26.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Degas: The Dancers," November 22, 1984–March 10, 1985, no. 30.
Manchester. Whitworth Art Gallery. "The Private Degas," January 20–February 28, 1987, no. 75.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum. "The Private Degas," March 17–May 3, 1987, no. 75.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Degas," February 9–May 16, 1988, no. 239.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Degas," June 16–August 28, 1988, no. 239.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 239.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A238.
Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Hokusai: Il vecchio pazzo per la pittura," October 6, 1999–January 9, 2000, no. VII.12.
Roslyn Harbor, N.Y. Nassau County Museum of Art. "Dance, Dance, Dance," June 11–September 17, 2000, unnumbered cat. (p. 59, ill. p. 8).
Rome. Complesso del Vittoriano. "Degas: Classico e moderno," October 1, 2004–February 1, 2005, no. 57.
London. Tate Britain. "Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910," October 5, 2005–January 15, 2006, no. 43.
Washington. Phillips Collection. "Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910," February 18–May 14, 2006, no. 43.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 69.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement," September 17–December 11, 2011, no. 33.
G[eorge]. M[oore]. "Degas in Bond Street." Speaker (January 2, 1892), p. 19, comments that "the crowd is enthusiastic over this 'Leçon de Danse'" and notes its variation on a theme seen many times in Degas's work; observes that it "is in Degas' early and Watteau manner, but it bears traces of Degas in his later and rougher manner. It is certainly an old picture that he has retouched within the last five years.".
Arthur Kay. Letter to the editor of The Westminster Gazette. March 29, 1893 [reprinted in Ref. Kay 1939, p. 29], remarks that he bought this picture with "L'absinthe" (1876; Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
"Grafton Gallery." Westminster Gazette (February 17, 1893), p. 3 [reprinted in Kate Flint, ed., "Impressionists in England: The Critical Reception," London, 1984, pp. 279–80], calls the composition "a curious inverted and distorted effect, which is of course exceedingly clever, and to M. Degas' followers, no doubt exceedingly interesting".
"The Grafton Gallery." Globe (February 25, 1893), p. 3 [reprinted in Kate Flint, ed., "Impressionists in England: The Critical Reception," London, 1984, p. 280].
"The Grafton Gallery." Artist 14 (March 1, 1893), p. 86 [reprinted in Kate Flint, ed., "Impressionists in England: The Critical Reception," London, 1984, p. 282].
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 119, as "The Rehearsal Room".
D. S. MacColl. Confessions of a Keeper and other Papers. New York, 1931, p. 130.
Arthur Kay. Treasure Trove in Art. Edinburgh, 1939, p. 29, ill. opp. p. 32.
E. Tietze-Conrat. "What Degas Learned from Mantegna." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 26 (July–December 1944), pp. 416–17, fig. 1, as "Dancers, with Cello".
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 3, pp. 528–29, no. 905, ill., calls it "Danseuses au foyer (La contrebasse)" and dates it 1887; lists one charcoal and seven pastel studies for this picture (L906–12).
Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, , pp. 67, 377–79, pl. 118, calls it "Danseuses avec contrebasse. Frise" and dates it about 1880–83.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, p. 259.
Ronald Pickvance. "'L'Absinthe' in England." Apollo 77 (May 1963), p. 396.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 84–85, ill.
Ronald Pickvance. A Man of Influence: Alex Reid, 1854–1928. Exh. cat.Edinburgh, 1967, pp. 10, 33, no. 23, pl. 9, as "Danseuses avec Contrebasse".
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 124, no. 836, ill., dates it about 1887.
Siegfried Wichmann inWorld Cultures and Modern Art: The Encounter of 19th and 20th Century European Art and Music with Asia, Africa, Oceania, Afro- and Indo-America. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst. Munich, 1972, pp. 102, 114, no. 742, ill. pp. 130–31 (color), calls it "Dancers at Rehearsal" and dates it about 1887; relates the foreground figure of a dancer bending over to the pose of a peasant in a Hokusai woodcut.
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. 21 n. 8, p. 137 (notebook 31, p. 70), p. 151, suggests a revised date of about 1879–80 on p. 137 and about 1878–79 on p. 151, based on a study in a notebook dated 1878–79.
Theodore Reff. "Degas: A Master among Masters." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (Spring 1977), p. , fig. 71 (color) and ill. back cover (color detail), asserts that in this picture Degas was influenced by the composition of Hiroshige prints and the palette of Velázquez.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 12, colorpl. 18, dates it about 1880 in the caption and about 1887 in the text; mentions the variant in the Detroit Institute of Arts (L900), stating that it is difficult to ascertain which picture came first.
Denys Sutton. "Edgar Degas: Master of the Melodic Line." Apollo 110 (September 1979), p. 168, accepts Reff's [Ref. 1976] redating of this picture from 1887 to 1878–79.
Ronald Pickvance. Degas 1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1979, pp. 5, 23–24, no. 26, colorpl. 4, comments that it is one of a series of horizontal canvases that originated from a thumbnail sketch in an 1879 notebook.
Theodore Reff. "Degas, Lautrec, and Japanese Art." Japonisme in Art: An International Symposium. Tokyo, 1980, pp. 198–99, 211 n. 49, dates it probably about 1879.
Keith Roberts. Degas. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1976]. Oxford, 1982, fig. 8, dates it 1887.
Suzanne Folds McCullagh inDegas in The Art Institute of Chicago. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1984, pp. 62, 146, 149.
Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, fig. 134 (color), dates it 1887.
Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers inEdgar Degas: The Painter as Printmaker. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1984, pp. lviii, lxxi n. 15, fig. 37 (lithograph), note that when the printer Lemercier deposited the lithograph after this painting at the Bibliothèque Nationale in February 1889, the painting itself was still in Degas's possession, and would subsequently be altered by him.
George T. M. Shackelford. Degas: The Dancers. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1984, pp. 88–91, 93, 98, 138, no. 30, ill., dates it about 1885; notes that it was probably begun around 1878–79 and may have been retouched five or six years later, citing Moore [Ref. 1892].
Götz Adriani. Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. New York, 1985, p. 383, under no. 162, p. 385, under no. 172.
Geneviève Monnier. Pastels du XIXe siècle: Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins; Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1985, p. 80, under no. 73, dates it about 1880.
Charles Stuckey. "Recent Degas Publications." Burlington Magazine 127 (July 1985), p. 465, accepts Shackelford's [Ref. 1984] redating of the picture to about 1879–85.
Theodore Reff. The Notebooks of Edgar Degas: A Catalogue of the Thirty-Eight Notebooks in the Bibliothèque Nationale and Other Collections. 2nd. rev. ed. New York, 1985, vol. 1, p. 21 n. 8, p. 137 (notebook 31, p. 70), p. 151, changes the revised date to 1878–79 [see Ref. Reff 1976].
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 257.
Richard Thomson. The Private Degas. Exh. cat., Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. London, 1987, pp. 89, 141, no. 75, fig. 116, dates it about 1879–85.
Gary Tinterow inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 405–7, 409, no. 239, ill. (color), dates it about 1882–85, based on its palette and related drawings also dating from those years; states that it was probably the second in a series of over forty horizontal rehearsal pictures and that x-ray and infrared reflectography reveal that it seems to have been painted "in virtually a single campaign with only minor revisions".
Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, pp. 186–87, 202, 277, ill., date it about 1882–85; suggest that the horizontal frieze-like format of this and similar pictures indicates that Degas may have intended them as possible interior decorations.
Mari Kálmán Meller. "Exercises in and around Degas's Classrooms: Part II." Burlington Magazine 132 (April 1990), pp. 253, 255–58, 260 n. 37, pp. 262–63, fig. 21, dates it about 1882–85 and categorizes it as one of Degas's rightward friezes in which a shallow foreground on the left recedes steeply towards the right; notes that Moore's [Ref. 1892] description of it as an early picture that was reworked and its closeness to the 1879 notebook study "connect it to Degas's earliest thoughts about the frieze format"; comments that "although the content is still ostensibly casual, in form the stage-set is charged with drama; it is this contrast that carries the metaphysical impact of the composition".
Colin B. Bailey inMasterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel, and Mark Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 14, 138 n. 6, relates it to the charcoal drawing "Standing Dancer Fastening Her Sash" (about 1880–83; The Hyde Collection, Glen Falls, New York).
Henri Loyrette. Degas. Paris, 1991, pp. 464–65.
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, 259, 337 n. 376, p. 338 n. 385.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 232.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 335, no. A238, ill. p. 333.
Mari Kálmán Meller. "Exercises in and around Degas's Classrooms: Part III." Burlington Magazine 135 (July 1993), pp. 452, 458 n. 43.
Ann Dumas. "'Dancer Seen from Behind' by Edgar Degas: A Classical Drawing by a Master of Modernity." Porticus 17–19 (1994–96), pp. 23–24, fig. 3, relates it to a preparatory drawing in the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester (L911).
Richard Thomson. Edgar Degas: Waiting. Malibu, 1995, pp. 19, 21–24, fig. 12, dates it about 1882–85; considers it likely that the horizontal paintings of rehearsal rooms were conceived as murals.
Colta Ives inThe Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, p. 252, fig. 335 (color), cites our painting as an example of Degas's adherence to the style of the Japanese folding or sliding screen, placing "his key motif far off center at right, at an oblique angle to a long rectangular picture format".
Gian Carlo Calza. Hokusai: Il vecchio pazzo per la pittura. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 1999, pp. 415, 518, no. VII.12, ill. p. 428 (color), dates it about 1887.
Franklin Hill Perrell. Dance, Dance, Dance. Exh. cat., Nassau County Museum of Art. Roslyn Harbor, N.Y., 2000, pp. 11, 14, 59, ill. p. 8 (color).
Frances Fowle. "Vincent's Scottish Twin: The Glasgow Art Dealer Alexander Reid." Van Gogh Museum Journal (2000), pp. 97–98.
Richard Shone. The Janice H. Levin Collection of French Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, p. 39, fig. 18.
Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Dance. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 2002, pp. 111, 283 n. 66.
Valentina Anker inL'impressionismo e l'età di Van Gogh. Exh. cat., Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso. Conegliano, Italy, 2002, pp. 237, 245 n. 34, ill.
Maria Teresa Benedetti inDegas: Classico e moderno. Ed. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2004, pp. 272–73, no. 57, ill. (color).
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. 209, 213, as "Danseuses au foyer (La Contrebasse)".
Anna Gruetzner Robins in Anna Gruetzner Robins and Richard Thomson. Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2005, pp. 86, 89–90, 204–5, 221, no. 43, ill. p. 93 (color overall) and cover (color detail), as "Dancers in the Rehearsal Room"; discusses its early critical reception.
Gary Tinterow inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 100–101, 209–10, no. 69, ill. (color and black and white).
Frances Fowle. Impressionism and Scotland. Exh. cat., National Gallery Complex. Edinburgh, 2008, pp. 67–68, 130, 143, 153 n. 41, colorpl. 84.
Alastair Macaulay. "Degas's Ballet Students Teach the Lessons of Their Art." New York Times (September 3, 2008), p. E5.
Colin B. Bailey inMasterpieces 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, pp. 28, 31 n. 6.
Richard Kendall and Jill DeVonyar. Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2011, pp. 43, 71, 95, 98–101, 104, 107, 110–11, 260 n. 41, p. 261 nn. 42, 46, no. 33, ill. (color), discuss panoramic photography's influence on the frieze ballet pictures and their shared "visual vocabulary"; note that the paintings' formats were not a standard canvas size.
Lemoisne (1946) lists seven pastel studies (L906–12) for this picture and Tinterow (1988) mentions a closely related oil sketch (L902; formerly collection M. Exteens, Paris). An anonymous lithograph after this painting was published by Lemercier in 1889 (see Druick and Zegers 1984).