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Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
Cast by A.-A. Hébrard et Cie (Paris)
modeled 1888–89, cast 1920
8-1/2 x 17-7/8 x 16-5/8 in. (21.6 x 45.4 x 42.2 cm.)
H.O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929
Upon Degas's death in 1917, more than 150 pieces of sculpture were found in his studio. Most were made of wax, clay, and plastiline; some incorporated bits of cork,
wood, and other materials. Nearly all had reached various stages of deterioration. They were, in fact, quite fragile, owing in part to their media, in part to the fact that the artist's armatures were often inadequate, and in part to Degas's changes of mind.
Degas's heirs were in disagreement about a great many things, but by 1918 they had decided to authorize a series of casts, or editions, of bronzes to be made from 72 of the small figures. Paul-Albert Bartholomé (1848-1928), a sculptor and Degas's longtime friend, was to prepare the figures for casting and they were to be executed by the Paris foundry of Adrien-A. Hébrard (1865-1937).
The original mixed media sculpture from which this bronze was cast depends for its effect in large part on its polychromy and on the inclusion of materials usually foreign to sculpture. The tub is made of pieces of lead fashioned to look like a washtub, the flesh of dark red wax, the water of white plaster, and the base of plaster-soaked rags arranged over wood. While the polychrome effect has been lost in the bronze, the bronze records an experiment with the integration of a sculpture with its base. In the bronze version, the partly submerged figure of the woman and the tub have, in fact, become a single entity. In a letter to Bartholomé, dated June 13, 1889, he described some of his efforts to create its base, providing us with one of the few firm pieces of evidence for the date of the sculpture.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Signature: On top of base: Degas
Marking: CIRE/ PERDUE/ A A HEBRARD/ 26/A (founder's mark and serial letter)
A.-A. Hébrard et Cie (in 1920; sold to Havemeyer) ; Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer , New York (1920–29; bequeathed to MMA)
Artist / Maker / Culture
Object Type / Material