This beguiling sitter is depicted as if in a transitory moment, seemingly about to rise from the sofa, a slight smile on her lips. Degas rarely painted a face that reflects such good humor and calm. The woman is unidentified, but may well have been someone the artist knew intimately. He executed few commissioned portraits, preferring instead to depict family and friends, and seldom sold the portraits that he did paint. This work was in Degas’s studio at the time of his death and was included in his 1918 estate sale, as indicated by the stamped signature in the lower right corner.
Inscription: Stamped (lower right): Degas
the artist, Paris (until d. 1917; his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 6–8, 1918, no. 75, as "Portrait de femme (robe blanche, chapeau noir)," for Fr 75,000 to Viau); Dr. Georges Viau, Paris (1918–d. 1939; his estate, 1939–48; his estate sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, June 22, 1948, no. 2, as "La femme en gris," for Fr 9,100,000 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1948; stock no. 5750; sold on October 28, 1948 to Vogel]; Mr. and Mrs. Edwin C. Vogel, New York (1948–57)
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Exposition Degas," April 12–May 2, 1924, no. 49 (lent by Dr. Viau).
Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Degas: portraitiste, sculpteur," July 19–October 1, 1931, no. 34 (lent by Dr. Georges Viau).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 390 (lent by Dr. Georges Viau, Paris) [commemorative catalogue, no. 350].
New York. World's Fair, Pavillon de la France. "Five Centuries of History Mirrored in Five Centuries of French Art," 1939, no. 373 (as "The Lady in Grey," lent by Dr. Georges Viau, Paris).
New York. Wildenstein. "A Loan Exhibition of Degas," April 7–May 14, 1949, no. 9 (as "Woman in Grey," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin C. Vogel).
New York. Wildenstein. "Degas: Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of The Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, Inc.," April 7–May 7, 1960, no. 10.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Edgar Degas: The Reluctant Impressionist," June 20–September 1, 1974, no. 3.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 65.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 65.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 4 (of paintings).
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," December 3, 1986–February 1, 1987, no. 18.
Milan. Pinacoteca di Brera. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," March 4–May 10, 1987, no. 18.
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
Rome. Complesso del Vittoriano. "Ritratti e figure: capolavori impressionisti," March 7–July 6, 2003, no. 14.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 44.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 36.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Barcelona. Museu Picasso. "Picasso Looks at Degas," October 14, 2010–January 16, 2011, unnumbered cat. (fig. 114).
Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, pp. 49–50, 52, 133, pl. 9, calls it "Portrait de la dame en gris" in the text and "La dame en gris" in the caption and dates it about 1863–65.
Waldemar George. "La Collection Viau: I. La peinture moderne." L'Amour de l'art 6 (September 1925), p. 362, ill. p. 370, dates it about 1865–68 and describes it as influenced by Ingres.
Raymond Bouyer. "Degas 'Peintre classique et vrai,' d'après un livre recent." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 11 (January 1925), p. 49, ill. between pp. 46 and 47, dates it about 1863–65.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 2, pp. 64–65, no. 128, ill., dates it about 1865.
"Six chefs-d'oeuvre de la collection Georges Viau à la Galerie Charpentier." Arts, beaux-arts, littérature, spectacles no. 170 (June 11, 1948), p. 6.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Degas: From Classicist to Modern." Art News 48 (April 1949), p. 21, ill., dates it 1865 and finds the influence of Velázquez in the cool, neutral colors.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Reports of the Departments: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (October 1958), pp. 55–56, 58, ill.
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. 60–61, ill., comment that it "is an unusual portrait by Degas because he rarely painted a face that reflects so much good humor and calm"; compare it to Manet's "Mademoiselle V... in the Costume of an Espada" (1862; MMA 29.100.53).
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 95, no. 213, ill.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pp. 6–7, 9, 15 n. 23, colorpl. 2, dates it 1865 in the text and about 1865 in the caption; comments that the "nearly musical" treatment of color in the background may be "some sort of an allusion, not unlike what the Symbolists called a 'correspondence'"; notes the possible influence of Whistler.
Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, fig. 65 (color).
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 11, 54–55, 250, ill. (color), remarks that the stamped signature indicates that this painting was in Degas's possession when he died.
Gary Tinterow et al. Capolavori impressionisti dei musei americani. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Milan, 1987, pp. 46–47, no. 18, ill. (color).
Roger Hurlburt. "Free Spirits." Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (December 20, 1992), p. 4D.
Helen Kohen. "Lasting Impressions." Miami Herald (December 20, 1992), p. 6I, ill. p. 1I.
Tobia Bezzola inDegas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, p. 333, no. 72, ill. pp. 226 (color) and 333, as "Woman in Grey".
Muntsa Calbó inRitratti e figure: Capolavori impressionisti. Ed. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2003, p. 91.
Hèloise Romani inRitratti e figure: Capolavori impressionisti. Ed. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2003, pp. 120–21, no. 14, ill. (color), calls the pose evocative of Ingres's "Madame Moitessier" (1856; National Gallery, London) and compares the technique and palette to that of Velázquez.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 230–32, no. 44, ill. (color) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 126–27, no. 36, ill. (color)], compares its sense of immediacy and intimacy to that of a photograph.
Richard Kendall in Elizabeth Cowling and Richard Kendall. Picasso Looks at Degas. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2010, pp. 102, 337, fig. 114 (color).