Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
Pastel on paper, laid down on board
19 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. (48.9 x 32.4 cm)
Gift of The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, 2007 (2007.332.1)
Edgar Degas once confided to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard that he felt misunderstood by critics: "They call me the painter of dancers, not understanding that for me the dance is a pretext for painting pretty costumes and rendering movement." The focus of this pastel is the dancer's foreshortened arm, drawn on a diagonal from the lowered hand to the head. The pose reappears in several of Degas's more finished pictures, most often in scenes with a dancer clutching a bouquet of flowers and bowing at the conclusion of a performance. In this pastel, Degas has clearly altered the placement of the hand, and the dark green shading to the left of the ballerina's head most likely camouflages changes there as well. That this dancer is older and clearly not just a generic type has led art historians to suspect that she and Degas were friends.