At the Milliner's

Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)

Pastel on five pieces of wove paper, backed with paper, and laid down on canvas
27 1/4 x 27 1/4 in. (69.2 x 69.2 cm)
Pastels & Oil Sketches on Paper
Credit Line:
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1997, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Two customers in nearly identical dresses—perhaps a mother and daughter or two sisters—are seen from behind in a millinery shop. This pastel may have been conceived originally as a picture of a shopgirl (at left) adjusting a hat on a stand. However, once Degas drew the woman underneath the hat at the right and added the back of the sofa, the identity of the figure at the left was transformed; shopgirls were not allowed to sit.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): Degas

  • Provenance

    [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1881–82; stock no. 1923; delivered by the artist on October 12, 1881; purchased for Fr 1,500; sold on April 21, 1882 for Fr 2,000 to Ephrussi]; Charles Ephrussi, Paris (1882–96; returned to Durand-Ruel on deposit, April 24, 1895, stock no. 8648; sold on April 7, 1896 for Fr 8,000 to Durand-Ruel); Joseph Durand-Ruel (1896–d. 1928); his daughter Marie-Louise, Mme Jean d'Alayer de Costemore-d'Arc, Paris (1928–55; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, New York, 1955–56; sold March 22 to Annenberg]; Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, Rancho Mirage, Calif. (1956–97; jointly with MMA, 1997–his d. 2002)

  • Exhibition History

    London. Grafton Galleries. "Pictures by Boudin, Cézanne, Degas, Manet...," January–February 1905, no. 65 (as "At the Milliner's").

    Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Exposition Degas," April 12–May 2, 1924, no. 150 (as "L'Essai du chapeau chez la modiste," lent by M. Joseph Durand-Ruel).

    Paris. Galeries Durand-Ruel. "Quelques oeuvres importantes de Corot à van Gogh," May 11–June 16, 1934, no. 10.

    New York. Durand-Ruel Galleries. "The Four Great Impressionists: Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, Manet," March 27–April 13, 1940, no. 10.

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Pastels by Degas," March 1–31, 1943, no. 7.

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Degas: An Exhibition for the Benefit of American Aid to France, Inc.," November 10–29, 1947, no. 8.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Summer Loan Collections," July 4–September 2, 1963, no catalogue.

    London. Tate Gallery. "The Annenberg Collection," September 2–October 8, 1969, no. 12 (as "Chez la modiste").

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 21–September 17, 1989, unnumbered cat.

    Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 6–August 5, 1990, unnumbered cat.

    Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," August 16–November 11, 1990, unnumbered cat.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," June 4–October 13, 1991, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    Georges Grappe. Edgar Degas. Berlin, [1908], ill. p. 58, as "At the Milliner's".

    Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, p. 153, pl. 68, calls it "L'Essai du chapeau chez la modiste"; dates it 1885 on p. 153 and about 1880–85 in the caption.

    René Huyghe. "Degas ou la fiction réaliste." L'Amour de l'art 12 (July 1931), p. 282, fig. 23.

    R. H. Wilenski. Modern French Painters. New York, [1940], p. 333, as "L'essai du chapeau" in the J. Durand-Ruel collection, Paris.

    Marguerite Rebatet. Degas. Paris, 1944, pl. 60.

    P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 3, pp. 476–77, no. 827, ill., calls it "Chez la modiste" and dates it 1885.

    Randolph Schwabe. Degas: The Draughtsman. London, 1948, unpaginated, pl. 34.

    Robert Rey. Degas. Paris, 1952, pl. 52.

    Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, [1957], p. 118, no. 109, pl. 109 [English ed., 1958, p. 119, no. 109, pl. 109], calls it "L'Essai du chapeau chez la modiste" and dates it 1885.

    Jean Bouret. Degas. New York, 1965, p. 163, ill. p. 169 (color), dates it 1885 and interprets it as a milliner and her customer.

    M. Roy Fisher. The Annenberg Collection. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1969, unpaginated, no. 12, ill. (color), calls it "Chez la modiste" and dates it 1885; notes the influence of Japanese art in the composition.

    Fiorella Minervino in L'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, pp. 115–16, no. 637, ill., dates it about 1885.

    René Huyghe Lydie Huyghe in La Relève du réel: la peinture française au XIXe siècle: impressionnisme, symbolisme. Paris, 1974, fig. 77, date it about 1885.

    Richard R. Brettell in Richard R. Brettell and Suzanne Folds McCullagh. Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1984, p. 133, interprets it as representing a shop girl and a customer.

    Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, pp. 128, 275, ill. p. 129 (color), date it about 1882–84.

    Gary Tinterow in Degas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 397, fig. 210, dates it 1882–84.

    Colin B. Bailey in Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 18–21, 142–45, ill. (color and black and white), dates it 1881; remarks that the two women wear almost identical dresses and are of the same social status, possibly mother and daughter or two sisters; discusses the additions to the paper support, noting its original vertical format and suggesting that the composition may have begun as a woman arranging a hat on a hatstand; observes the influence of Italian Renaissance painting in the women's poses and features; calls this pastel the most finished of the milliner compositions, "a sort of prototype," in format, additive process, and compositional devices; suggests that Mary Cassatt's sister Lydia was the model for the figure on the left and mentions that the interior appears to be that of a small "maison de haute couture" on the rue de la Paix.

    Hollis Clayson. Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era. New Haven, 1991, p. 183 n. 33.

    Jérôme Coignard. "Le Salon de peinture de Mr. et Mrs. Annenberg." Beaux arts no. 92 (July–August 1991), p. 72.

    Ira Berkow. "Jewels in the Desert." Art News 97 (May 1998), ill. in color, pp. 148 (installation photo) and 149.

    Gary Tinterow. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1997–1998." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 56 (Fall 1998), p. 46, ill. (color), dates it 1881.

    Aruna D'Souza in The Invisible Flâneuse? Gender, Public Space, and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Manchester, 2006, pp. 131, 134, 144 n. 13, dates it 1882–84; interprets the hatless and coatless woman to be the saleswoman, making her seated proximity to the client "not just unexpected, but improper"; suggests that Degas depicted the milliner as a stand-in for the artisan-painter; notes that this picture seems to depict a private dressing room to which Degas would not have had access, and thus is most likely an imagined scene.

    Ruth E. Iskin. Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting. New York, 2007, pp. 60, 76, 80–82, 90, 92, 101, 238 n. 46, p. 240 n. 108, p. 241 n. 113, fig. 39, remarks that the composition was changed from a modiste working on a hat into "a private moment enjoyed by two bourgeois women consumers"; observes that the women appear to be on the upper floor of an exclusive salon, similar to that of M. Félix on the Faubourg St. Honoré.

    Colin B. Bailey in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, pp. 32–41, no. 8, ill. (color).

    Joseph J. Rishel in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 171 n. 13.

  • See also