Degas’s images of milliners often present witty formal analogies between women and the hats they sell or admire. In this pastel the visual pun is unmistakable. Degas compares the young shopgirl—who resembles Marie van Goethem, the model for his sculpture The Little Fourteen-Year-Old-Dancer—with an inanimate hat stand in the form of a dummy's head. The bright blue eyes of the unseeing stand stare fixedly at the hat it may soon wear.
Roger Marx, Paris (until d. 1913; his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 11–12, 1914, no. 122, for Fr 12,000 to Kélékian); Dikran Khan Kelekian, Paris and New York (1914–22; cat., 1920, unnumbered, pl. 31; his sale, American Art Association, New York, January 30, 1922, no. 125, to MMA)
Brooklyn Museum. "Paintings by Modern French Masters, Representing the Post Impressionists and Their Predecessors," March 26–April 25, 1921, no. 80 (as "The Modiste," lent by D. G. Kelekian).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings," May 3–September 15, 1921, no. 36 (as "La Modiste," lent anonymously).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 35 (of works on paper).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 234.
Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 2, Paris, 1919, p. 46.
Introduction by Arsène Alexandre. Collection Kélékian: tableaux de l'école française moderne. Paris, 1920, p. 11, pl. 31, as "La Modiste".
J. B. Manson. The Life and Work of Edgar Degas. London, 1927, p. 49, pl. 65.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 2, pp. 400–401, no. 705, ill.
Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, , p. 117, under no. 108 [English ed., 1958, p. 119, under no. 108].
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 114, no. 592, ill.
Thomas B. Hess. "Communicating Degas." New York Magazine (March 28, 1977), p. 77, describes it as "remarkably archaicizing [sic] . . . a horizontal moss-green woman's face with a mouth from Chaldea".
Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, pp. 153, 213 n. 6.
Gary Tinterow inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 397, 399–400, 435, 437, no. 234, ill. (color), discusses the humor implicit in the composition.
Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, ill. p. 135.
Hollis Clayson. Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era. New Haven, 1991, p. 183 n. 33.
Richard Kendall. Degas and the Little Dancer. Exh. cat., Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. New Haven, 1998, pp. 56, 180 n. 70.
Rebecca A. Rabinow. "Modern Art Comes to the Metropolitan: The 1921 Exhibition of 'Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings'." Apollo 152 (October 2000), pp. 4, 10, fig. 2 (color).
Ruth E. Iskin. Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting. New York, 2007, pp. 71–72, 106–7, 244 n. 188, fig. 42, suggests that this picture's similarities to Symbolist representations of interiority may indicate a redating to the late 1880s or 1890s; describes the subject as a higher-level modiste, absorbed in looking at her designs.