The Collector of Prints

Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)

Oil on canvas
20 7/8 x 15 3/4 in. (53 x 40 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    In this scene, cheap, outmoded prints—colored lithographs by the flower painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté—are coupled with a fashionable Tang dynasty horse and Japanese fabrics pinned on the bulletin board to typify an old-fashioned collector, obsessively accumulating an array of artworks. The depiction of individuals, interrupted at tasks amid settings that reveal clues about their character, was developed by Degas in numerous figure paintings of the 1860s and early 1870s.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Degas / 1866

  • Provenance

    Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (probably 1891–his d. 1907; bought from the artist for Fr 3,000 or 5,000; sent to them by Durand-Ruel on December 13, 1894; probably arrived in New York on February 12, 1895); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 112–13, ill.)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 47 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 102].

    Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 2–October 28, 1951, no catalogue.

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 14–December 12, 1951, no catalogue.

    City Art Museum of St. Louis. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 6–February 4, 1952, no catalogue.

    Seattle Art Museum. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 1–June 30, 1952, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 5 (of paintings).

    Richmond. Virginia Museum. "Degas," May 23–July 9, 1978, no. 2.

    New York. Acquavella Galleries. "Edgar Degas," November 1–December 3, 1978, no. 4 (as "L'Amateur").

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Degas," February 9–May 16, 1988, no. 66.

    Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Degas," June 16–August 28, 1988, no. 66.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 66.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A197.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Impressionnisme: Les origines, 1859–1869," April 19–August 8, 1994, no. 58.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Origins of Impressionism," September 27, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 58.

    Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum. "In Perfect Harmony: Picture + Frame, 1850–1920," March 31–June 25, 1995, no. 118.

    Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 33.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 65.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19.Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    Paul Jamot. Letter to Josephine McCarrell Lansing. August 31, 1929, comments that Marcel Guérin, then owner of the study for this portrait, had been unable to identify the sitter; remarks that it must have been a friend of the artist.

    "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Parnassus 2 (March 1930), p. 7.

    H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 112–13, ill., as "The Designer of Prints".

    Louise Burroughs. "A Portrait of James Tissot by Degas." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 36 (February 1941), p. 37.

    P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 2, pp. 70–71, no. 138, ill., calls it "L'Amateur" and connects it with the study (L139) formerly in the collection of Marcel Guérin [now collection Mme Alfred Indig, France].

    Jean S[utherland]. Boggs. "Edgar Degas and the Bellellis." Art Bulletin 37 (June 1955), p. 134 n. 45, notes that the study for this picture (L139; collection Mme Alfred Indig) is painted over a portrait sketch of Giuliana Bellelli.

    Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, [1957], p. 106, no. 25, colorpl. 25 [English ed., 1958], notes that the sitter's identity is unknown.

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 252–53, recounts that Degas raised the original price of $1,000 to $3,000 after keeping the picture for nearly two years to retouch it.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX–XX Centuries." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3, New York, 1967, p. 61, ill.

    Theodore Reff. "The Pictures within Degas's Pictures." Metropolitan Museum Journal 1 (1968), pp. 125, 127, 131–33, 164–66, figs. 7, 8 (overall and detail), calls the anonymous sitter a type of old-fashioned collector rather than an individual; observes the predominance of the background over the figure; identifies the color lithographs as the work of Pierre Redouté, the statuette of a horse as a Chinese piece from the T'ang dynasty, and the items on the bulletin board as calling cards, photographs, and fragments of Japanese embroidery; considers the embroideries the most important element in the design, and indicative of Degas's assimilation of Japanese art.

    Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill.

    Fiorella Minervino in L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 96, no. 219, ill.

    Denys Sutton. Edgar Degas, 1834–1917. Exh. cat., Lefevre Fine Art Ltd. London, 1970, p. 10.

    Theodore Reff. "Manet's Portrait of Zola." Burlington Magazine 117 (January 1975), p. 39, fig. 30, discusses similarities with Manet's portrait of Emile Zola (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).

    Alice Bellony-Rewald. The Lost World of the Impressionists. London, 1976, pp. 170–71, ill.

    Charles W. Millard. The Sculpture of Edgar Degas. Princeton, 1976, p. 55 n. 4, identifies the statuette of the horse as a plaster cast.

    Theodore Reff. Degas, The Artist's Mind. [New York], 1976, pp. 90, 94, 98–101, 106, 138, 144–45, 307 n. 44, figs. 65, 66 (overall and detail), reprints Ref. Reff 1968.

    Charles S. Moffett and Elizabeth Streicher. "Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer as Collectors of Degas." Nineteenth Century 3 (Spring 1977), pp. 25–26, fig. 6.

    Theodore Reff. "Degas: A Master among Masters." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (Spring 1977), p. [14], fig. 26 (color) and ill. inside front cover (color detail), suggests that it inspired the design and conception of Manet's portrait of Zola (Orsay).

    Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, pl. 54.

    Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pp. 7–8, colorpl. 12.

    T[heodore]. R[eff]. in Gabriel P. Weisberg. The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830–1900. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1980, p. 175.

    Jacques Dufwa. Winds from the East: A Study in the Art of Manet, Degas, Monet and Whistler 1856–86. Stockholm, 1981, pp. 90, 201 n. 40, fig. 69, compares it to Manet's portrait of Zola (Orsay), suggesting that Degas gave Manet the idea for the framed montage seen in each picture, but that Degas's "arrangement is simpler and has not the aesthetic balance and complication that is characteristic of Manet's montage".

    Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, pp. 164–65, 169 n. 40, p. 198 n. 45, fig. 48.

    Jean Sutherland Boggs in Hanne Finsen. Degas et la famille Bellelli. Exh. cat., Ordrupgaard. Copenhagen, 1983, p. 19 n. 45, p. 94, under appendix D.

    Françoise Cachin in Manet, 1832–1883. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, pp. 282, 284, fig. a [French ed., Paris, 1983].

    Philippe Brame and Theodore Reff. Degas et son oeuvre: A Supplement. New York, 1984, p. 46, under no. 44.

    Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 134, 145, 434, characterizes the sitter as "evidently secretive, even furtive" and finds an autobiographical element in the used hat which "links the sitter to Auguste [Degas]'s connoisseur circle, and hence today's viewer to Edgar on Sunday leave from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand".

    Charles F. Stuckey in Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, p. 62 n. 128, fig. 64 (color), erroneously cites Millard's [Ref. 1976] identification of the horse as a wooden statue, suggesting that Degas used little wooden horses as models for his racing pictures.

    Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 56–57, 250, ill. (color).

    Gary Tinterow. Letter to Nicholas Penny. July 17, 1986, does not think that the present gilt frame is original since Degas painted his frames; suggests that this frame was supplied by Durand-Ruel [see Ref. Cahn 1995].

    Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 81, 255, pl. 34, states that Mrs. Havemeyer selected this work for the price of $1,000 during a visit to Degas's studio with Mary Cassatt in the spring of 1891; recounts Mrs. Havemeyer's story about Degas's raising of the price, noting that he actually kept it longer than the two years she remembered, for Durand-Ruel did not send it to her until December 13, 1894.

    Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, pp. 96, 274, ill. p. 98 (color), note that it is "as much about collecting as it is about the collector".

    Robert L. Herbert. Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society. New Haven, 1988, pp. 52, 56, 308 n. 48, colorpl. 54, calls it an "urban encounter in a public space" in which the viewer is a potential rival interrupting the collector's perusal of the print portfolio.

    Henri Loyrette in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 44, 56, 122–23, no. 66, ill. (color), calls it a portrait of "the enthusiastic collector, a fanatic more anxious to acquire than to show—in short, what Degas himself a few years later would become".

    Michael Pantazzi in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 249, compares the composition of this work to that of several other portraits done before Degas's departure for New Orleans in 1872 which depict figures against a background parallel to the picture plane, and "all of which share an almost compulsive interest in the dynamic contrast generated by the placement of a figure against a background dominated by the interplay of rectangles".

    Barbara Scott. "The Triumph of Degas." Apollo 127 (April 1988), p. 284.

    Henri Loyrette. "Degas entre Gustave Moreau et Duranty. Notes sur les portraits 1859–1876." Revue de l'art no. 86 (1989), p. 19.

    Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, p. 104, fig. 49.

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 252–53, 257, 288, 337 nn. 371, 376, p. 344 n. 450, quotes a letter from Mary Cassatt of 1890, which notes that "Degas thinks most seriously of finishing your picture for you" (presumably this painting).

    Henri Loyrette. Degas: The Man and His Art. New York, 1993, pp. 14–15, ill.

    Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 212, 216.

    Gary Tinterow in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 42, colorpl. 44.

    Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 325, no. A197, ill. p. 326.

    Marianne Karabelnik in Degas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, p. 261, states that Degas, like Manet, elevates portraiture to a higher category by representing the individual within his environment; compares this painting with Manet's portrait of Zola (Orsay); notes that it "originally depicted an identifiable individual whom our ignorance has now made anonymous, turning the picture into genre".

    Henri Loyrette in Origins of Impressionism. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, pp. 296, 371–72, 463, no. 58, ill. p. 371 and fig. 283 (color) [French ed., Paris, 1994, pp. 296, 369–70, 462, no. 58, ill. p. 369 and fig. 283 (color)], describes it as "a portrait in an interior," based on a formula Degas developed during the 1860s.

    Emil Maurer in Degas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, p. 105.

    Isabelle Cahn in In Perfect Harmony: Picture + Frame, 1850–1920. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 1995, pp. 132, 134, 269, no. 118, fig. 118 (color), states that this is one of the few Degas paintings which retains its original frame, a passe-partout type with a fluted outer edge and broad inner surfaces, the profile of which Degas drew in his sketchbook of 1879–82; notes that the original painted surface of the frame probably once matched the colors of the picture, but that the present thick gold coating was possibly added to conform to certain exhibition regulations.

    Richard Thomson. Edgar Degas: Waiting. Malibu, 1995, p. 73, fig. 48, discusses Degas's use of the pose of a seated figure leaning forward in this picture and "Victorine Dubourg" (Toledo Museum of Art), calling our figure "diffident"; observes that the posture can be read in relation to the facial expression; notes that Degas revived this pose for the clothed figure in "Waiting" (about 1880–82; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).

    Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, pp. 365, 459 n. 27, colorpl. 283 (in frame).

    Ann Dumas in The Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, p. 111, fig. 128
    , calls it a sympathetic portrayal of an unknown sitter, with whom Degas identified as an art lover rather than a speculator.

    Colta Ives in The Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, p. 260 n. 9.

    Gary Tinterow in La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 18, 66–68, 105, no. 33, ill. (color).

    Rebecca A. Rabinow in Degas and America: The Early Collectors. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2000, pp. 37, 44 n. 17, fig. 4 (color).

    W. H. Bailey. Defining Edges: A New Look at Picture Frames. New York, 2002, pp. 92–93, ill. (color).

    Clare A. P. Willsdon. In the Gardens of Impressionism. New York, 2004, pp. 83, 281, pl. 82 (detail), comments that the Redouté print held by the sitter is of orange-blossom, a symbol of chastity traditionally worn by a woman on her wedding night, and that by holding it upside down, he indicates "that his purchases were of women as well as of artworks".

    Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Art of Japan. Exh. cat., Reading Public Museum. Reading, Pa., 2007, pp. 15–16, 99 n. 33.

    Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 109, 239–40, no. 99, ill. (color and black and white).

    Gary Tinterow in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 94–95, 205–6, no. 65, ill. (color and black and white).

    Elizabeth Easton and Jared Bark. "'Pictures Properly Framed': Degas and Innovation in Impressionist Frames." Burlington Magazine 150 (September 2008), pp. 606–9, fig. 38 (color), remark that the original Degas frame on this picture "with a broad, flat panel bordered by a raised outer rail, is a particularly felicitous surround for a painting of a print collector, as it resembles the traditional presentation of a work on paper: a drawing or print surrounded by a mount and framed in a narrow moulding".

    Michael Pantazzi in Jane Kinsman. Degas: The Uncontested Master. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2008, p. 248.

  • Notes

    The identity of the sitter is unknown. An oil study of the man's head (L139; collection Mme Alfred Indig, France; formerly collection Marcel Guérin) is painted over a sketch for a portrait of Giuliana Bellelli.

    X-rays taken in 1987 reveal that Degas changed the positions of the figure's hands and of some of the framed items on the wall, as well as painting over a rectangular shape on the wall between the bottom of the frame and the papers on the table.

  • See also