There are three similar versions of this scene, and their precise relationship has bedeviled scholars for decades. The largest, painted in grisaille (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), appeared in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. The two others, tentatively dated the same year, are in the Metropolitan’s collection. This painting probably preceded the version in pastel (29.100.39), which is more freely handled. The importance that Degas attached to the composition is evident in the preparatory drawings that he made for almost every figure, from the dancer scratching her back in the foreground to the woman yawning next to the stage flat.
The Painting: This very unusual mixed-media picture shows a rehearsal for a ballet. The view is from a slightly elevated point above the orchestra pit; the scrolls of two double basses are just visible in the foreground, radically cropped at the bottom of the canvas. At left dancers wait in the wings, while other dancers rehearse at center stage. The dance master in a black suit at midground leads the motion on stage with his fingers, like a conductor. Two male abonnés (season subscribers) sit at the far right of the stage. The painting incorporates the use of the solvent turpentine with oil paint, ink drawing, pastel, and watercolor (see Technical Notes). It is related to several other works by Degas discussed below.
During rehearsals for a short ballet within Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni on the Paris Opéra’s stage in the mid-1870s, Degas found himself entranced by the action both onstage and in the wings. In fact, one art historian (Armstrong 1991) has gone so far as to say that "in almost all of the dance pictures exhibited between 1874 and 1886, there are only small groups of dancers actually dancing, and they are invariably surrounded . . . by a crowd of very different occupations: stretching, yawning, scratching, looking distractedly around." To these activities, in The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, one might add tying a ballet shoe, the ballet master’s gesturing to the dancers, the implied music-making coming from the orchestra pit (for which the two double-bass scrolls serve as stand-in), and the watchful waiting of the ready-to-pounce abonnés. Male subscribers to the opera in Paris had a long history of seeking out companionship from the young dancers of the ballet corps. They were often given access to watch rehearsals from the wings and to wait backstage at performances for the dancers to finish so that they might escort the girls afterward. For the impressionable and often poor ballerinas, such men could be seen as their "sugar daddies."
The British writer George Moore (1891) recounted that the picture had been rejected by the Illustrated London News because of the impropriety of the image. The periodical circulated through a church rectory group, and, no doubt, the proximity of dancers with bare arms and legs to the well-dressed abonnés was too much for their readers. These male figures alternately stretch out to relax as if at home or sit casually backwards in a chair, attentive to each possible revelation of skin the dancers might provide. Moore recalled that when Degas’s drawing was returned to him, the painter began to add oil paint thinly over the original drawing. Moore’s statement about what happened to the original drawing has led to the identification of this version with the submission to the periodical, as opposed to The Met’s pastel version (29.100.39) or the version in camaïeu (monochrome painting) in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay (see Additional Images, fig. 1) (discussed below).
Degas keeps the viewer’s eyes in motion, darting from figure to figure with little attention paid (or, in turn, to be paid by the viewer) to the opera scenery. He enacts this strategy by bringing our attention first to the dancers waiting in the wings at left for their cue to enter, then to the yawning dancer with arms akimbo just beyond them, to the two dancers centrally located but depicted at upstage right already in position, then to the dancer with a fanciful blue ribbon around her tutu seated on a bench at left and mindlessly scratching her back, to the lively central two dancers caught as if in mid-movement, and, finally, to the "two dilettanti of the boulevard stretch[ing] themselves at ease to watch the work" (Meynell 1882) at far right below the opera stalls. What interested Degas most about hanging around the ballet of the Paris Opéra was the ability to catch the body in motion unawares. A rehearsal on the stage was a prime opportunity for making such observations.
Browse (1949) identified the theater depicted as the stage of the Salle de la Rue Le Peletier, the site of the Paris Opéra until it burned down on October 28, 1873. Despite the ballet rehearsing after that point, first, temporarily at the Salle Ventadour and then, from 1875 on, in Garnier’s new opera house, Degas chose to present this scene as he had perhaps first observed it, at the rue le Peletier. Browse also tentatively identified the ballet master as Eugène Coralli (included in The Met, 2005.100.588.1.115), a dancer and mime who was the son and pupil of the more famous dancer and choreographer Jean Coralli and who served as Régisseur de la Danse of the opera ballet in the period. She noted his presence, too, in Degas’s Rehearsal in the Studio (ca. 1878–79, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont). (For more background on Degas and the Opéra ballet, see the online catalogue entry for The Dance Class, also 1874 [The Met, 1987.47.1], under "The Paris Opéra Ballet.") DeVonyar and Kendall (2002) identified the actual ballet divertissement for which the performers rehearse as the "Ballet des Roses" from Don Giovanni (in French, Don Juan) on the bases of matching costume designs, contemporary photography, and scenery details that included theater flats depicting trees and shrubbery. The ballet revolved around a tale of love between butterflies and roses. DeVonyar and Kendall identified the season as most likely summer from the resting dancers’ lack of shawls. They noted that Degas probably began the series before the October 1873 fire or painted them rapidly from memory within months of the fire. They also noted the artist took a viewpoint from the first-level balcony at left of the stage, which was a special location traditionally reserved for the emperor or high-level dignitaries. Finally, they observed the presence of a trestle or gantry, typically used as scene-painting equipment in the period, in the background of the painting.
The British painter Walter Sickert acquired the picture at the estate sale of Captain Henry Hill of Brighton at Christie’s London in 1889. When Sickert’s wife lent it to the New English Art Club two years later, the critic D. S. MacColl (December 5, 1891) called it "a demonstration against all pedantry of technique; begun in black-and-white for an illustrated paper, it has somehow been transformed into colour by what may, for aught one can tell, be a mixture of body-colour, pastel, and oils; the effect is obtained, and that is the only law." MacColl found the technique of less interest than the effect it created, but, for Degas, the process was intimately connected to the final effect.
Studies for the Painting: Degas made several studies for a number of the figures in this scene. In the first sale of his estate, a study in pastel of a Dancer (L426, whereabouts unknown) presents a figure in the same stance as the central dancer en pointe. In the same sale, a graphite, black and white chalk, and pastel drawing squared for transfer (see Additional Images, fig. 2) has been associated with the dancer who enters upstage at right along with another dancer behind her. Standing Dancer, with Arm Raised (L401, see Additional Images, fig. 3), a study for the dancer at far left who looks down and raises her arm to hold on to a flat, appeared in the second sale of Degas’s estate (1918). From the same sale, a charcoal study for the yawning dancer at left (whereabouts unknown) is very similar to the study in essence Danseuse Baillant (L402, see Additional Images, fig. 4; whereabouts unknown). Two studies for the seated dancer with braided strawberry-blonde hair scratching her back are in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay (see Additional Images, figs. 5, 6). The third sale of Degas’s estate (1919) included a study for the man stretched out with his hands in his pockets, and another for the ballet master (III: 113; Browse 1949, figs. 30a and 31a). Finally, in his notebooks, we can find much evidence of the painter’s close study of the opera house stalls and double-bass scrolls (see Additional Images, figs. 7, 8, and Nb. 24, p. 1; see Reff 1976, vol. 1, p. 21, on the painter’s process in using these studies).
The Series of Three Rehearsal Onstage Scenes: The camaïeu version of the subject (see Additional Images, fig. 1) appeared in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Boggs and Maheux (1992) suggested that Degas submitted the camaïeu to the Illustrated London News because of its resemblance to the monochrome colors of the etching format. Grisaille (grey-toned) paintings, similar to the Orsay camaïeu, typically were employed by painters for this purpose. (The work is Degas’s only monochrome painting [Pantazzi 1988].) Similarly, Richard Kendall’s (1985) early thoughts on the series had the Orsay picture first because of his theory of the artist moving through a process from black-and-white tonalism to color. However, Moore, a close friend to Degas from at least 1875 on, discussed the aftermath of Degas’s rejection from the publication in such specific terms that it seems hard to believe that he would have confused the two canvases. Moore recounted in The Speaker (1891): "upon having his drawing returned to him Degas began painting upon it in oil, very thinly—so thinly that the original drawing is still visible through the paint." One has the impression that Moore may even have witnessed this unorthodox transformation of the canvas. Degas’s friend Sickert also noted later (1932) that it was the same work that had been submitted to the Illustrated London News, rejected by their rectory circulation, and painted in oil afterwards.
A key part of Degas’s process was streamlining the composition between the three versions of the scene. The Met’s pastel version includes only one bass scroll, focuses even less on the set design, and reduces the number of figures at both left and right waiting in the wings. By the time the artist took up the monochrome version, he included no scenery at right and reduced the number of men in the scene to the single top-hatted gentleman who focuses intensely on the dancers. Pentimenti in the Orsay version, however, reveal traces of the original design, with the ballet master and second onlooker still visible to those who search for them. Once using a larger format, Degas was able to include the curve of the front of the stage (see Pickvance 1963). For more on the order of the three versions, see "Technical Notes" below.
Related Works: The painting Two Dancers on a Stage (see Additional Images, fig. 9) in the Courtauld Gallery, London, is directly related to the two dancers at middle right in the rehearsal compositions. Just beyond those two figures at far left in the London work is the sharply cropped image of a third dancer in tutu and pink bodice or sash just beyond the green background that matches the flats in The Met’s two Rehearsal pictures. The figure at right with a green sash takes a more open fourth position pose with arms outstretched, while the central dancer’s en pointe pose is nearly identical to that of The Met’s central dancer. DeVonyar and Kendall (2002) were able to identify the piece in rehearsal with the help of the rosebud- and sepal-decorated bell-shaped costumes visible in the London canvas. In choosing not to specify the name of the ballet, as he did earlier in Portrait of Mlle Fiocre in the Ballet "La Source" (Portrait de Mlle...E[ugénie] F[iocre]: à propos du ballet "La Source") (ca. 1867-68, Brooklyn Museum), Degas moved beyond creating what some might have seen as mere records of the performances to opportunities for creative license (DeVonyar and Kendall 2002, p. 158). Where the London picture presents costumes from the performance (with some liberty taken in their translation into paint), the Rehearsal series’ simpler white tutus reflect common classroom attire worn for rehearsals other than dress rehearsals.
Degas based the central figure in Ballet Rehearsal (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City) on that of the Rehearsal series as well as the Courtauld picture, but reverses her pose. The artist also completed his first monotype, The Ballet Master (ca. 1876, National Gallery of Art, Washington), after the Kansas City picture.
Technical Notes: The most frequently exhibited and illustrated of his dance pictures before 1900, this painting has been called "technically unique" in Degas’s oeuvre (Pickvance 1963). In truth, his use of mixed media was more than a touch unorthodox; for 1874, it was downright revolutionary. The idea of taking one’s pen-and-ink drawing and laying different types of paint and pastel on top of it is something we might expect of artists working a century later who have been known to experiment with various media, such as Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930). Johns, himself, has admired Degas’s work and was inspired by his predecessor’s playful approach to mixed media, particularly when following in Degas’s footsteps to explore monotype prints. The incorporation of the solvent turpentine to thin out oil paint, in a technique known as peinture à l’essence, was first explored in oil studies during the Renaissance but it was revived and extended to final paintings by Degas. (See Denis Rouart, Degas: A la recherche de sa technique, Paris, 1945, pp. 14–15.) The relatively early investigations into mixed media in this picture only emboldened Degas to push further by adding pastel to his monotypes of the 1890s and by using such found objects as human hair, silk and linen ribbon, a cotton faille bodice, cotton and silk tutu, and linen slippers in his wax sculpture Little Dancer, Fourteen Years Old (1878–81, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Before he risked exhibiting the Little Dancer at the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881, Degas’s experimental combination of media in Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage served as an artist’s private exploration of mixing media. (The Little Dancer was the only sculpture he would exhibit in his lifetime and the source of much criticism in the press.) Perhaps because of this radical rumination on media, Degas does not appear to have exhibited this version of the subject in Paris until the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877, choosing to test the waters first by showing it abroad at the Deschamps Gallery in London in 1876. (For more on Degas’s experiments in mixed media, see Ann Hoenigswald and Kimberly A. Jones, "’All the Vocabularies of Painting’: Adaptation and Experimentation, 1878–1879," Degas/Cassatt, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2014, pp. 119–21.)
As reported in Pantazzi (1988), the Degas Pastel Project, led by Anne Maheux and Peter Zegers at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, examined closely the extensive underdrawing partially visible to the naked eye in The Met’s two Rehearsal works on paper mounted on canvas. It was because of the "uncommon precision" of the ink drawing under the present version that Pantazzi subscribed to the idea that the picture was initially the model for the notional print. He noted that the scenery and figures are carefully outlined and that closely hatched lines indicated values. When examined under infrared light, even more details came to the fore; for example, the ballet master’s fingernails are visible. In The Met’s pastel version, by contrast, the ink drawing includes only ruled architectural outlines and "quite freely, even hesitantly, drawn" outlines of the two dancers at right and little shading. Pantazzi concluded that the ink drawing under The Met’s pastel version was actually an earlier attempt at the composition than the ink drawing under the present painting because of the more cursory underdrawing in the pastel version and because of changes to one figure between the two drawings. The central dancer en pointe in the pastel version was originally drawn with her right arm raised, as in a charcoal drawing (III:115.1), but was corrected in ink to a lowered-arm pose. In the present version, by contrast, her arm appears in that lowered pose with no correction.
Given these discoveries, Pantazzi concluded that the order of creation was: the ink drawing under the pastel, the ink drawing under this picture, the camaïeu (1873–74), this picture reworked in color (perhaps 1874), and the final pastel (perhaps 1874). He also noted that the Degas Pastel Project had found that some areas were drawn over in ink after paint had been applied, a technique that "appears to be unique in Degas’s work."
[Jane R. Becker 2016]
Inscription: Signed (upper left): Degas
[Charles W. Deschamps, London, by 1876; sent to him by the artist before April 1876; sold to Hill]; Captain Henry Hill, Brighton (by 1876–until d. 1882; his estate, 1882–89; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 25, 1889, no. 29, as "A Rehearsal," for 66 gns. to Sickert); Walter Richard Sickert, London (from 1889; given to Cobden-Sickert); his second wife, Ellen Cobden-Sickert, London (until 1902; left in the care of her sister, Mrs. T. Fisher-Unwin, by summer 1898; deposited by Cobden-Sickert on January 4, 1902 with Durand-Ruel, Paris; deposit no. 10185; returned to her on January 25, 1902 in the care of Boussod, Valadon; sold on January 31, 1902 for Fr 75,373 to Boussod, Valadon); [Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris, 1902; stock no. 27473; sold on February 7, 1902, for Fr 82,845, to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1902–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929); her son, Horace Havemeyer, New York (1929; cat., 1931, pp. 122–23, ill.)
London. Deschamps Gallery. "Twelfth Exhibition of Pictures by Modern French Artists," Spring 1876, no. 130 (as "The Rehearsal") [see Sterling and Salinger 1967].
Paris. 6, rue le Peletier. "3e exposition de peinture [3rd Impressionist exhibition]," April 1877, no. 61 (as "Répétition de ballet," possibly this painting).
London. New English Art Club. "Seventh Exhibition," Winter 1891–92, no. 39 (as "Répétition," lent by Mrs. Walter Sickert) [see Sterling and Salinger 1967].
London. International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. "Exhibition of International Art," April 26–September 22, 1898, no. 116 (as "Dancers," lent by Mrs. Unwin).
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition Centennale de l'art français (1800–1889)," May–November 1900, no. 210 (as "La répétition," lent by Mme Cobden-Sickert).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Masterpieces by Old and Modern Painters," April 6–24, 1915, no. 38 (as "The Ballet Rehearsal," possibly this picture or not in catalogue).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 58 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 111].
Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Degas," March 1–May 20, 1937, no. 22.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Works by Edgar Degas," February 5–March 9, 1947, no. 23.
New York. Wildenstein. "A Loan Exhibition of Degas," April 7–May 14, 1949, no. 36.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting," November 4, 1950–February 11, 1951, no. 73.
Kansas City, Mo. William Rockhill Nelson Gallery. "Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition: 19th and 20th Century French Paintings," December 11–28, 1953, no catalogue?
Los Angeles County Museum. "An Exhibition of Works by Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas, 1834–1917," March 1958, no. 26.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 13 (of paintings).
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Degas," February 9–May 16, 1988, no. 124.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Degas," June 16–August 28, 1988, no. 124.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 124.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A212.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 34.
Alice Meynell. "A Brighton Treasure-House: The Hill Collection." Magazine of Art 5 (1882), p. 82, describes it among Hill's collection of Degas ballet pictures, "which assuredly have no charm of beauty wherewith to fascinate us".
George Moore. "Degas: The Painter of Modern Life." Magazine of Art 13 (October 1890), ill. p. 420, as "A Rehearsal"; on p. 423 describes "pictures begun in water-colour, continued in gouache, and afterwards completed in oils, and if the picture be examined carefully it will be found that the finishing hand has been given with pen and ink," which may be a reference to this picture [see Ref. Reff 1971].
Lucien Pissarro. Letter to Camille Pissarro. May 1891 [published in "The Letters of Lucien to Camille Pissarro, 1883–1903," ed. Anne Thorold, 1993, p. 212], describes seeing a Degas oil painting in Sickert's home, mentioning that it was purchased from a famous sale, possibly this picture [see Ref. Cooper 1954].
G[eorge]. M[oore]. "The New English Art Club." The Speaker (December 5, 1891), p. 677, recounts its rejection by the "Illustrated London News" because the subject matter was considered improper for its rectory circulation; notes that "upon having his drawing returned to him Degas began painting upon it in oil, very thinly—so thinly that the original drawing is still visible through the paint".
D. S. M[acColl]. "The New English Art Club." The Spectator (December 5, 1891), p. 809, calls it "a demonstration against all pedantry of technique; begun in black-and-white for an illustrated paper, it has somehow been transformed into colour by what may, for aught one can tell, be a mixture of body-colour, pastel, and oils; the effect is obtained, and that is the only law".
R. Jope Slade. "Current Art: The New English Art Club." Magazine of Art 15 (1892), p. 123, calls it "Une Répetition," lent by Mrs. Walter Sickert to the New English Art Club exhibition [see Exh. London 1891–92].
Frederick Wedmore. "Manet, Degas, and Renoir: Impressionist Figure-Painters." Brush and Pencil 15 (May 1905), ill. p. 260.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst. Vol. 2, 2nd ed. Munich, 1915, pl. 260.
Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 2, Paris, 1919, p. 26, calls it a replica ["un double"] of the grisaille version of this composition (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
Julius Meier-Graefe. Degas. Munich, 1920, pp. 45–46 [English ed., 1923, pp. 60–61], dates it possibly just before the grisaille version; calls the artist's unusual angle of vision an "apparently haphazard choice".
Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, pp. 125, 142–43, reproduces the pastel version (MMA 29.100.39) but describes this picture in the entry for plate 36; dates it about 1874; calls it a variant of the grisaille and asserts that it is difficult to determine which version came first; says that no. 61 in the 3rd Impressionist exhibition [Exh. Paris 1877] could have been this picture, but considers it more likely to have been the grisaille.
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. 122–23, ill., dates it about 1874–75.
Walter Richard Sickert. "The Way of a Painter." Twentieth Century Art. Exh. cat., Leicester Galleries. London, 1932 [repr. in "A Free House! or the Artist as Craftsman: Being the Writings of Walter Richard Sickert," ed. Osbert Sitwell, 1947, p. 294], calls it "perhaps the most famous stage-rehearsal scene of a ballet by Degas" and remarks that it was painted over a pen-and-ink drawing rejected by the "Illustrated London News" for fear of offending its rectory circulation.
Jacqueline Bouchot-Saupique and Marie Delaroche-Vernet. Degas. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, , pp. 31–32, no. 22, pl. 13, date it probably about 1874–76 and believe this picture was definitely in the 3rd Impressionist exhibition [Exh. Paris 1877].
Hans Huth. "Impressionism Comes to America." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (April 1946), p. 239 n. 22, suggests erroneously that it was exhibited in 1886 in New York at the American Art Association and the National Academy of Design.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, pp. 91–92; vol. 2, pp. 218–19, no. 400, ill., dates it about 1876, calling it a replica of the grisaille (no. 340; dated 1874).
Louise Burroughs. "Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (January 1946), unpaginated, ill. on cover (color detail) and inside cover, refers to the grisaille as the earliest of the three versions.
Fiske Kimball and Lionello Venturi. Great Paintings in America. New York, 1948, pp. 182–83, no. 84, ill. (color), call it the second of the three versions, dating all three to 1874.
Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, , pp. 55–56, 67, 338, 344–46, pl. 30, dates it about 1874–75, between the grisaille and pastel versions; attempts to identify the specific people, ballet, and location in the picture, suggesting that the ballet master is Eugène Coralli, who worked with the Paris Opéra and that the stage is that of the opera house on Rue Le Peletier, which burned down in October 1873.
Jean Cassou. Les Impressionnistes et leur époque. Paris, 1953, p. 28, no. 44, ill., dates it about 1876.
Douglas Cooper. The Courtauld Collection. London, 1954, pp. 61–62, notes that Lucien Pissarro saw this picture hanging in Sickert's home [see Ref. Pissarro 1891].
Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, , pp. 108, 112–13, 130, no. 66, pl. 66 [English ed., 1958, pp. 108–9, under no. 36, pp. 113, 132, no. 66, pl. 66], dates it 1875.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 259–60, misidentifies the medium of this picture as gouache.
Ronald Pickvance. "Henry Hill: An Untypical Victorian Collector." Apollo 76 (December 1962), p. 791, fig. 3, states that Hill acquired this painting from Durand-Ruel by 1876.
Ronald Pickvance. "Degas's Dancers: 1872–6." Burlington Magazine 105 (June 1963), pp. 259–60, 263–66, fig. 21, dates it 1873 and considers it the earliest of the three versions; states that Degas originally created this picture as a pen and ink drawing, which was rejected for submission to the "Illustrated London News" and later added to in a manner "technically unique in Degas's oeuvre"; calls the grisaille version a radically modified variant of this one, dated before April 1874, and the pastel version a copy of the original ink design, dated no later than 1874; also relates the Courtauld painting "Two Dancers on a Stage" (Lemoisne no. 425) to this composition, calling all four related pictures "a closely self-contained group".
Jean Sutherland Boggs. Drawings by Degas. Exh. cat., City Art Museum of Saint Louis. St. Louis, 1966, p. 114, under no. 70.
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. 73–76, ill., accept Pickvance's [Ref. 1963] date of 1873–74 for all three versions and consider this picture the earliest of the three.
Lillian Browse. "Degas's Grand Passion." Apollo 85 (February 1967), p. 109, fig. 4, refers to it as one of the two later canvases among the three versions; comments on the liberties Degas has taken with the subject for the sake of the composition.
Theodore Reff. "An Exhibition of Drawings by Degas." Art Quarterly 30, no. 3–4 (1967), p. 261.
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 108, no. 466, ill., dates it 1873–74.
Theodore Reff. "Degas' Sculpture, 1880–1884." Art Quarterly 33, no. 3 (1970), pp. 294, 298 n. 73, asserts that although this picture has been cited as a source for the dancer motif on a carved wooden box by Gauguin (1884; Collection Halfdan Nobel Roede, Oslo), the grisaille version was more likely seen by Gauguin.
Theodore Reff. "The Technical Aspects of Degas's Art." Metropolitan Museum Journal 4 (1971), p. 151, fig. 17 (detail), calls Moore's [see Ref. 1890] description of Degas pictures executed in watercolor, gouache, oil, and pen and ink "obviously apropros" this painting, and cites it as an example of early critical notice of Degas' unconventional use of mixed media.
Alice Bellony-Rewald. The Lost World of the Impressionists. London, 1976, ill. p. 167, dates it 1878–79.
Theodore Reff. Degas, The Artist's Mind. [New York], 1976, pp. 284–85, fig. 200 (detail), dates it about 1873.
Theodore Reff. The Notebooks of Edgar Degas: A Catalogue of the Thirty-Eight Notebooks in the Bibliothèque Nationale and Other Collections. Oxford, 1976, vol. 1, p. 7 n. 2, pp. 9, 21, 115 (notebook 22, p. 203), pp. 119–20 (notebook 24, pp. 26–27), dates it 1873; catalogues studies for this picture and illustrates one of them [vol. 2, Nb. 24, p. 27].
Denys Sutton. Walter Sickert: A Biography. London, 1976, pp. 61, 71, 111–12, quotes from Sickert's letter to Jacques-Emile Blanche after he bought this picture in 1889: "I find more & more, in half a sentence that Degas has said, guidance for years of work," and from a  letter in which he describes having sold this picture to an American for £3,000.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 12, colorpl. 20, dates it 1873–74 in the text and about 1873 in the caption.
Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, pp. 113, 117, 202, pl. 102, dates it 1873–74.
Keith Roberts. Degas. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1976]. Oxford, 1982, unpaginated, under no. 17, fig. 21.
Ronald Pickvance. Edgar Degas: 1834–1917. Exh. cat., David Carritt. London, 1983, p. 4.
Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 218, 229, 361, 363.
George T. M. Shackelford. Degas: The Dancers. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1984, pp. 36–37, 44, 55, 127 n. 6, fig. 1.9, dates it about 1872.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 70–71, 74, 250, ill. (color), dates it about 1873, placing it first among the three versions.
Götz Adriani. Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. New York, 1985, p. 362, under no. 93.
Anna Gruetzner. "Degas and George Moore: Some Observations about the Last Impressionist Exhibition." Degas 1834–1984. Ed. Richard Kendall. Manchester, 1985, p. 37, fig. 31, quotes from Moore's account ("The Speaker," December 5, 1891) of this picture's rejection by the Illustrated London News.
Richard Kendall inDegas, 1834–1984. Ed. Richard Kendall. Manchester, 1985, p. 24, fig. 31, calls the grisaille version a possible preliminary tonal study for the pen-and-ink underdrawing of this picture.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 224, ill. (installation photograph of Exh. New York 1915).
Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, p. 208 n. 29.
Richard R. Brettell inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 204.
Hollis Clayson inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 174, under no. 25.
Paul Tucker inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 120, erroneously identifies it as no. 60 in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.
Dennis Farr and John House inImpressionist & Post-Impressionist Masterpieces: The Courtauld Collection. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. New Haven, 1987, unpaginated, under nos. 7 and 8.
Alexandra R. Murphy in Rafael Fernandez and Alexandra R. Murphy. Degas in the Clark Collection. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 1987, p. 11, fig. E, dates it about 1878.
Michael Pantazzi inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 225–32, 240, 242, 260, 391, 476, 494, no. 124, ill. (color), suggests a new sequence for the three versions: 1. the ink drawing underlying the pastel, 2. the ink drawing underlying this picture, 3. the grisaille, 1873–74, 4. this picture, reworked in color, perhaps 1874, and 5. the final pastel, perhaps 1874; calls it "technically the more curious" of the two MMA pictures and reports that in both compositions, certain areas in color were redrawn again in ink, a method of reworking that "appears to be unique in Degas's work"; notes that studies exist for almost every figure in the picture.
Richard Thomson. "The Degas Exhibition at the Grand Palais." Burlington Magazine 130 (April 1988), pp. 296, 298.
Anna Gruetzner Robins. "Degas and Sickert: Notes on Their Friendship." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), pp. 226–27.
Mari Kálmán Meller. "Exercises in and around Degas's Classrooms: Part I." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), pp. 212–15, fig. 29, dates it about 1873 and considers it the first of the three versions; discusses the evolution of the MMA compositions from the painting "Orchestra of the Opéra" (Musée d'Orsay); calls the style of the MMA versions "pell-mell, deliberately anarchic" that is then transformed to "a pedantic manner" in the grisaille; compares the group of figures at the left to similar groupings in the "Young Spartans" (1860; National Gallery, London) and "Four Dancers" (about 1899; National Gallery of Art, Washington).
Michael Kimmelman. "New Metropolitan Galleries Open with Degas." New York Times (September 26, 1988), p. C19.
Françoise Cachin. "Degas et Gauguin." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 115.
Denys Sutton. "Degas et l'Angleterre." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 280.
Richard Thomson. "The Degas Exhibition in Ottawa and New York." Burlington Magazine 131 (April 1989), pp. 293–94.
Henri Loyrette. Degas. Paris, 1991, p. 612.
Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, pp. 10, 38, 50, 60, 131, fig. 5, dates it 1876; discusses the "obsessive quality" of Degas's repetitions in the three versions of this picture.
Patrick Bade. Degas. London, 1991, pp. 84–85, 143, ill. (color).
Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux. Degas Pastels. New York, 1992, p. 54, under no. 8, p. 171 n. 8–1, pp. 180–81, identify it as probably no. 60 in the 1st Impressionist exhibition and as no. 61 in the 3rd Impressionist exhibition.
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, 259–60, 337 n. 376, pp. 338–39 n. 387.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 232, 285, colorpl. 227, dates it "1874?".
Rebecca A. Rabinow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 95, fig. 12 (installation photograph of Exh. New York 1915), identifies it as either no. 38 or not in the catalogue of the 1915 New York exhibition.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 328–29, no. A212, ill.
Albert Kostenevich. Hidden Treasures Revealed: Impressionist Masterpieces and Other Important French Paintings Preserved by the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Exh. cat.New York, 1995, p. 64, suggests that "The Dancer" (about 1874; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) is related to this picture.
Richard Kendall. Degas, Beyond Impressionism. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1996, pp. 58–59, 308 n. 16.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 2, p. 74, no. III-61, ill. p. 92, identifies it as possibly no. 61 in the 3rd Impressionist exhibition [Exh. Paris 1877].
Gary Tinterow inLa collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 66, 105, no. 34, ill. p. 69 (color), dates it 1873–74.
Susan Alyson Stein inLa collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, p. 19.
Richard Kendall. Degas and the Little Dancer. Exh. cat., Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha. New Haven, 1998, pp. 6, 177 nn. 14, 16.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inDegas and America: The Early Collectors. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2000, p. 39, fig. 8 (color).
Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Dance. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 2002, pp. 30, 58, 60–61, 71, 101, 143, 159–60, 201–2, colorpl. 62, date it probably 1874, suggesting that Degas began the three versions before the October 1873 fire at the Opéra, perhaps in the summer since the resting dancers do not wear shawls, or that he rapidly painted them from memory within months; note that the artist's viewpoint is from the first-level balcony to the left of the stage, a primary location "traditionally reserved... for the emperor or for leading dignitaries"; propose that the dance being rehearsed is the divertissement, "Ballet des Roses," from the opera "Don Juan".
Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall inMaster Drawings, 1700–1900. Exh. cat., W. M. Brady & Co., Inc. New York, 2002, unpaginated, under no. 32.
Gioia Mori inDegas: Classico e moderno. Ed. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2004, p. 106 n. 31.
Maria Teresa Benedetti inDegas: Classico e moderno. Ed. Maria Teresa Benedetti. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2004, p. 229.
Madeleine Korn. "Exhibitions of Modern French Art and Their Influence on Collectors in Britain 1870–1918: The Davies Sisters in Context." Journal of the History of Collections 16, no. 2 (2004), pp. 208–9, 213, as "Répétition d'un ballet sur la scène"; dates it about 1876.
Gary Tinterow and Asher Ethan Miller inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 402, 404 n. 3, note that Degas hoped James Tissot could help him sell this picture as a commercial illustration.
Anna Gruetzner Robins in Anna Gruetzner Robins and Richard Thomson. Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2005, pp. 62, 65–66, 74, 79, 84, 184, 203–4.
Richard Thomson in Anna Gruetzner Robins and Richard Thomson. Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870–1910. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2005, pp. 26, 29, fig. 9 (color), dates it about 1873–74; notes that Hill purchased this picture from Deschamps for 66 guineas and speculates that Hill "responded to these scenes of exercise and rehearsal as intriguing images of an unusual corner of contemporary life, or that they struck a chord in his sympathy for the strenuous lives of the urban worker".
Jill DeVonyar in Annette Dixon. The Dancer: Degas, Forain, Toulouse-Lautrec. Exh. cat., Portland Art Museum. Portland, Oreg., 2008, p. 223, fig. 14 (color).
Mary Morton and George T. M. Shackelford. Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, p. 19.