Edgar Degas (French, 18341917)
Bronze, partly tinted, with cotton skirt and satin hair ribbon, on a wooden base; H. 41 1/4 in. (104.8 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.370)
The model for this essentially realistic work is known to have been Marie Van Goethem. Born on June 7, 1865, she was a student at the École de Danse in Paris, and by 1880 she had been engaged as a dancer at the Opéra. The care with which Degas observed his model is reflected not only in the sculpture itself, but also in the unusual number of surviving sketches of the model in charcoal and pastel, as well as in a preparatory sculptural study of the figure in the nude. The title, The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer (Petite danseuse de quatorze ans), given to the original mixed-media sculpture when it was exhibited by Degas in the sixth Impressionist exhibition held in Paris in 1881, provides the most solid evidence for the sculpture's date.