Berthe Morisot's eldest sister is shown in the living room of her family's house in Paris in this unfinished portrait by Degas. Preceded by several preparatory studies, including two drawings and a pastel, which are also in the Museum's collection, the work was favored by Mary Cassatt, who remarked: "It is much in the style of a Vermeer and quite as interesting, very quiet and reposeful. It is a beautiful picture."
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Artist:Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:21 3/4 x 25 5/8 in. (55.2 x 65.1 cm)
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Degas
the artist, Paris (until at least 1876); [Michel Manzi, Paris, until d. 1915; sold on December 5, 1916 by Manzi's widow, Charlotte Manzi, through Mary Cassatt to Havemeyer]; Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1916–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 114–15, ill.)
Paris. 11, rue Le Peletier. "2e exposition de peinture [2nd Impressionist exhibition]," April 1876, no. 39 (as "Portrait de femme [ébauche]") [see Degas 1876, Loyrette 1988, and Berson 1996].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 52 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 108].
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Degas's Portraits of his Family and Friends," March 6–28, 1948, unnum. checklist.
Art Gallery of Toronto. "Berthe Morisot and Her Circle: Paintings from the Rouart Collection, Paris," September 20–October 26, 1952, not in catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 9 (of paintings).
Richmond. Virginia Museum. "Degas," May 23–July 9, 1978, no. 5.
New York. Acquavella Galleries. "Edgar Degas," November 1–December 3, 1978, no. 8.
Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh. "Franse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten," March 15–May 31, 1987, no. 26.
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Degas," February 9–May 16, 1988, no. 87.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Degas," June 16–August 28, 1988, no. 87.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 87.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A200.
Museu de Arte de São Paulo. "Degas: o Universo de um Artista," May 17–August 20, 2006, no cat. number [pp. 166–67].
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 67.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Edgar Degas," September 18–December 31, 2010, no. 32.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "L'Impressionnisme et la Mode," September 25, 2012–January 20, 2013, no. 96.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity," February 26–May 7, 2013, no. 47.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity," June 26–September 29, 2013, no. 47.
Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. "Degas, un peintre impressionniste?," March 27–July 19, 2015, no. 22.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 76).
Marie-Cornélie Morisot. Letter. May 23, 1869 [published and translated in Rouart 1957, p. 35], remarks that Degas is "mad about Yves' face" and that he is sketching her portrait, noting that "he is going to transfer onto the canvas the drawing that he is doing in his sketchbook".
Madame Théodore Gobillard. Letter to Berthe Morisot. June 26, 1869 [published and translated in Rouart 1957, p. 36], mentions a sketch that Degas has just completed of her and comments "I doubt if he can transfer it onto the canvas without spoiling it".
Berthe Morisot. Letter to Edma Morisot. May 11, 1869 [published and translated in Rouart 1957, p. 33], mentions that Degas has asked to paint a portrait of her sister, commenting "Yves has certainly made a conquest of Monsieur Degas".
Edgar Degas. Letter to Berthe Morisot. [March 1876] [published and translated in Rouart 1957, p. 97, and Reff 2020, no. 56], calls it "an old sketch of a portrait of your sister, Mme Gobillard" and requests her consent to show it in Paris 1876 (see Exhibitions).
"The H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Parnassus 2 (March 1930), p. 7.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 114–15, ill.
Guillaume Lerolle. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. December 4, 1931, quotes a letter from Ernest Rouart identifying the sitter and remarking that this picture, painted in 1869, is an enlargement of the preparatory drawing then owned by Mme Paul Valéry (MMA 1984.76).
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. New York, 1946, p. 188, ill. p. 182.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, p. 58; vol. 2, pp. 110–11, no. 213, ill., dates it 1869.
Degas's Portraits of his Family and Friends. Exh. cat., Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Minneapolis, 1948, unpaginated, erroneously dates it 1879.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 28.
Denis Rouart, ed. The Correspondence of Berthe Morisot. New York, 1957, pp. 33, 35–36, 97, [see Morisot 1869, Gobillard 1869, and Degas 1876].
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 264–67, calls it her best and perhaps last acquisition of Degas's works.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1961, p. 222, ill. p. 226.
Jean Sutherland Boggs. Portraits by Degas. Berkeley, 1962, pp. 27, 31, 119, pl. 64, comments on Degas's use of some of the squaring lines on the preparatory sketch (MMA 1984.76) in the composition of the painting.
Louise Burroughs. "Degas Paints a Portrait." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 21 (January 1963), pp. 169–72, ill. inside cover, dates it probably 1869; illustrates the two pencil sketches and the pastel head.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 65–66, ill., date it July 1869.
Eugenia Parry Janis. "The Role of the Monotype in the Working Method of Degas—I." Burlington Magazine 109 (January 1967), p. 25, asserts that the sitter and her sister Berthe Morisot considered the pastel (MMA 1976.201.8), rather than the "painted attempt," to be the finished portrait.
Theodore Reff. "The Pictures within Degas's Pictures." Metropolitan Museum Journal 1 (1968), pp. 125–26.
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 97, no. 249, ill.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. 4th rev. ed. New York, 1973, p. 222, ill. p. 226.
Charles S. Moffett and Elizabeth Streicher. "Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer as Collectors of Degas." Nineteenth Century 3 (Spring 1977), pp. 26, 28, fig. 7, date it about 1869.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pp. 6–9, colorpl. 5, dates it about 1869 in the caption and states that it was executed in July 1869 in the text.
Jacob Bean inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, p. 57.
Ira M. Horowitz. "Whistler's Frames." Art Journal 39 (Winter 1979–80), p. 130, states that this picture's frame was designed by Degas, and was perhaps originally painted "to harmonize with the overall color theme of the picture".
Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 167–69, ill.
Jacob Bean. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, p. 73.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 12, 61–63, 250, ill. in color (overall and detail).
Gary Tinterow inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1984–1985. New York, 1985, p. 30.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 230–31, 255, pl. 156, describes the events surrounding Mrs. Havemeyer's purchase of this work from Manzi's heirs through Mary Cassatt.
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.
Sjraar van Heutgen et al. inFranse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1987, pp. 15, 17, 78–79, no. 26, ill. (color).
Michael Pantazzi inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 249–50, 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"; finds this composition especially close to that of "Henri Rouart and His Daughter Hélène" (L424; private collection, New York).
Henri Loyrette inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 41, 57, 149–51, 155, no. 87. ill. (color), dates it 1869; identifies this picture as no. 39 in the 1876 Impressionist exhibition; notes that the preparatory studies "display a coherence and sense of progression that would seem to suggest quite a different painting from the studio portrait, which, though it is unfinished, must be considered the final work"; describes the distant view of the garden as Degas's response to Berthe Morisot's "unsuccessful attempts" to paint figures in a landscape.
Barbara Scott. "The Triumph of Degas." Apollo 127 (April 1988), p. 282, questions whether the frame was chosen by Degas.
Jack Flam. "The Master on View at New Met Galleries." Wall Street Journal (December 27, 1988), p. ?.
Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 297, note that it may have been no. 39 in the 1876 Impressionist exhibition, but that it was not mentioned in the press.
Henri Loyrette. Degas. Paris, 1991, pp. 236–38.
Anne Higonnet. Berthe Morisot's Images of Women. Cambridge, Mass., 1992, pp. 67, 290, fig. 17, discusses its influence on Morisot's slightly later "Portrait of Cornélie Morisot and Edma Pontillon" (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which depicts almost the same view of the Morisot living room.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 257, 264–67, 337 n. 376, p. 339 n. 396.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 271, fig. 106 (installation photograph of Exh. New York 1930).
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 325, no. A200, ill. p. 326.
Henri Loyrette. Degas: The Man and His Art. New York, 1993, p. 56, ill.
Gary Tinterow and Henri Loyrette. Origins of Impressionism. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, p. 323, fig. 392 [French ed., "Impressionnisme: Les origines, 1859–1869," RdMN, Paris, p. 324, fig. 392].
Jean Sutherland Boggs inDegas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, pp. 24, 89 [German ed., "Degas Die Portraits"].
Marilyn R. Brown. Degas and the Business of Art: A Cotton Office in New Orleans. University Park, Pa., 1994, p. 67.
Isabelle Cahn inIn Perfect Harmony: Picture + Frame, 1850–1920. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 1995, pp. 132, 134, fig. 119 (color), notes that this is one of the few Degas works which retains its original frame.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 450, ill. p. 451.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 2, p. 34, no. II-39, ill. p. 48, identifies it as no. 39 in the 1876 Impressionist exhibition and identifies Degas 1876 as a reference to the painting.
Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, p. 459 n. 27.
Jean Sutherland Boggs inDegas et la Nouvelle-Orléans. Exh. cat., Ordrupgaard. Copenhagen, 1999, p. 20, fig. 12 (color).
Richard R. Brettell. Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860–1890. Exh. cat., National Gallery, London. New Haven, 2000, p. 203, fig. 144 (color).
David Bomford et al. inArt in the Making: Degas. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2004, p. 22, fig. 14 (color).
Gary Tinterow inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 98, 207, no. 67, 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. 607–8, fig. 42 (color), note that Mrs. Havemeyer likely had the current frame on this picture constructed to resemble one of Degas's original frames.
Justine De Young inImpressionism, Fashion, & Modernity. Ed. Gloria Groom. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Chicago, 2012, pp. 109–12, ill. (color) [French ed., "L'Impressionnisme et la Mode," Paris, pp. 147–48, ill. p. 154 (color)], discusses her elegant black dress with regard to changing styles of the 1860s and 70s and an absence of sensuality; notes Mary Cassatt praised it as one of his finest and called it in the style of Vermeer; notes that the lack of jewelry, hat, or gloves corroborates its setting as being a domestic one; discusses sketches for it with regard to the artist's experimentation; compares it to Morisot's "Interior" (Collection of Diane B. Wilsey).
Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity. Ed. Gloria Groom. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Chicago, 2012, p. 285, no. 47, ill. (color) [French ed., "L'Impressionnisme et la Mode," Paris, p. 299, no. 96].
Anne Roquebert inDegas: Un peintre impressionniste? Ed. Marina Ferretti Bocquillon and Xavier Rey. Exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. Giverny, 2015, p. 41.
Roberta Crisci-Richardson. Mapping Degas: Real Spaces, Symbolic Spaces and Invented Spaces in the Life and Work of Edgar Degas (1834–1917). Newcastle upon Tyne, 2015, pp. 153–55, 177 nn. 44, 45, pp. 204, 219 n. 70, fig. 5-4, discusses the genesis and development of the picture; states incorrectly that Degas exhibited it at the Salon of 1870, rather than the pastel study (The Met 1976.201.8) [see also Lemoisne 1946–49].
Degas: Un peintre impressionniste? Ed. Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon and Xavier Rey. Exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. Giverny, 2015, p. 156, no. 22, colorpl. 22.
Andrea Bayer and Nicholas Cullinan inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 103.
Asher Ethan Miller inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 285, colorpl. 76, notes that preparatory works for this painting show more detail than it does.
Henri Loyrette. Degas: A New Vision. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne, 2016, p. 52.
Ann Hoenigswald and Kimberly A. Jones. "The Question of Finish in the Work of Edgar Degas." Facture: Conservation, Science, Art History 3 (2017), pp. 22, 46 n. 5, cite it as an example of works Degas exhibited alongside more finished works but described as sketches; note that Degas signed the painting despite its nearly "monochromatic ébauche" state.
Amalia Wojciechowski inBerthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist. Exh. cat., Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. New York, 2018, pp. 194, 198.
Henri Loyrette inDegas à l'Opéra. Ed. Henri Loyrette. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 2019, p. 74, fig. 68 (color) [English ed., London, 2020].
Theodore Reff, ed. The Letters of Edgar Degas.. By Edgar Degas. New York, 2020, vol. 1, p. 206; vol. 3, p. 39, letter no. 56.
In May and June of 1869 Degas made three drawings and a pastel in preparation for this painting. In the first drawing (The Met 1985.48), Yves's face is turned toward the viewer. Degas transferred it to canvas by means of a tracing on thin paper (The Met 1984.76), reworked and lightly squared. The highly finished pastel shows Yves in profile (The Met 1976.201.8). Sometime later Degas made the third and last drawing (Cabinet des Dessins, Louvre, Paris) showing the setting in detail, with a glimpse of the garden.
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