No doubt Degas intended to include this work in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition among the nudes he described in the catalogue as "women bathing, washing themselves, combing their hair or having it combed," since it is his only pastel of the mid-1880s of a woman having her hair combed. Executed in large format and meticulously finished, this nude—reminiscent of Rembrandt’s famous Bathsheba at Her Bath in the Louvre—may not have been completed in time for the exhibition, or else it may have been excluded deliberately for reasons unknown.
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Title:Woman Having Her Hair Combed
Artist:Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
Medium:Pastel on light green wove paper, now discolored to warm gray, affixed to original pulpboard mount
Dimensions:29 1/8 x 23 7/8 in. (74 x 60.6 cm)
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Degas; (lower right) Degas [obscured by the artist]
?[Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris; probably bought from the artist and sold about 1888 to Dupuis]; Monsieur Dupuis, Paris (about 1888–d. 1890; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 10, 1891, no. 13, as "Jeune dame coiffée par sa femme de chambre," for Fr 2,600 to Mayer [probably Meyer]); [probably Salvador Meyer, from 1891]; Roger Marx, Paris (by 1906–d. 1913; his estate sale, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Paris, May 11–12, 1914, no. 125, as "La Toilette," for Fr 101,000 to Durand-Ruel [deposit no. 11710, May 19, 1914] for Havemeyer); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1914–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 130–31, ill.)
Paris. Bernheim-Jeune. "Aquarelles & Pastels de Cézanne, H.-E. Cross, Degas . . . .," May 3–15, 1909, no. 48 (as "La toilette").
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Masterpieces by Old and Modern Painters," April 6–24, 1915, no. 28 (as "La Toilette").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 147 (as "The Toilet") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 126, as "The Toilet"].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Impressionist Epoch," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 43 (of works on paper; as "Nude Woman Having Her Hair Combed," about 1885).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 274.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A242.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Making The Met, 1870–2020," August 29, 2020–January 3, 2021, unnumbered cat. (fig. 142).
LOAN OF THIS WORK IS RESTRICTED.
Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 1, Paris, 1918, ill. p. 23, as "La Toilette".
Paul Jamot. Degas. Paris, 1924, pp. 153–54, pl. 69, dates it about 1885–86; states that it was exhibited at the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), ill. p. 465, as "The Toilet".
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 130–31, ill., as "Nude—La Toilette"; dates it 1885 or 86; lists it in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
René Huyghe. "Degas ou la fiction réaliste." L'amour de l'art 12 (July 1931), p. 282, fig. 29, as "La coiffeuse".
Louise Burroughs. "Degas in the Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (May 1932), p. 145, ill.
Georges Rivière. Mr. Degas: Bourgeois de Paris. Paris, 1935, ill. p. 69, dates it about 1880.
Camille Mauclair. Degas. London, , p. 167, pl. 103, as "The Toilet"; dates it about 1885–86.
Agnes Mongan. "Degas as Seen in American Collections." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), p. 302, pl. II, C.
Margaret Breuning. "Metropolitan Re-Installs Its Treasures in Attractive Settings." Art Digest 18 (June 1, 1944), ill. p. 5, as "The Toilet".
"Two Nudes." American Artist 8 (May 1944), ill. p. 8.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. New York, 1946, ill. p. 393.
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, p. 121, ill. opp. p. 120; vol. 3, pp. 488–89, no. 847, ill., calls it "La Toilette" and dates it about 1885; lists it in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Douglas Cooper. Pastels by Edgar Degas. New York, [1952?], pp. 22–23, no. 22, ill. (color) [German ed., 1952, pp. 23–24, no. 22, ill. (color)], as "The Morning Toilet," about 1885.
Jean Cassou. Les Impressionnistes et leur époque. Paris, 1953, p. 28, no. 46, ill., dates it about 1885.
Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, , pp. 55, 119, no. 127, colorpl. 127 [English ed., 1958, pp. 55, 121, no. 127, colorpl. 127], as "La Toilette," about 1885.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 261–62.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. rev., enl. ed. New York, 1961, ill. p. 525, as "After the Bath".
Phoebe Pool. Degas. London, 1963, p. 44, colorpl. 45, as "The Morning Toilet"; dates it 1886.
Ronald Pickvance. Letter to Margaretta M. Salinger. August 3, 1963, asserts that this picture "was almost certainly" shown in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition since it is the only pastel from the period that corresponds to the catalogue description of women having their hair combed, but also notes that it was not mentioned in the exhibition reviews.
Denys Sutton. "The Discerning Eye of Louisine Havemeyer." Apollo 82 (September 1965), p. 235, colorpl. XXV.
Ronald Pickvance. "Some Aspects of Degas's Nudes." Apollo 83 (January 1966), p. 21, colorpl. V, dates it about 1885.
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. 86–88, ill., call it "A Woman Having Her Hair Combed".
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill., dates it about 1885.
Alfred Werner. Degas Pastels. New York, 1968, p. 68, colorpl. 25.
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 127, no. 918, ill. and colorpl. LI, dates it about 1885.
Theodore Reff. "The Technical Aspects of Degas's Art." Metropolitan Museum Journal 4 (1971), p. 144, fig. 3 (detail).
John Rewald. "Théo van Gogh, Goupil, and the Impressionists." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 81 (January 1973), p. 76, does not believe that Dupuis purchased this picture from Boussod, Valadon; notes that it was purchased by Mayer, probably the dealer Salvador Meyer, at the 1891 Dupuis sale.
John Rewald. The History of Impressionism. 4th rev. ed. New York, 1973, ill. p. 525, as "After the Bath"; dates it about 1885.
Theodore Reff. Degas, The Artist's Mind. [New York], 1976, pp. 274, 276, 310 n. 87, p. 336 n. 19, fig. 186 (color), as "The Toilette".
Charles S. Moffett and Elizabeth Streicher. "Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer as Collectors of Degas." Nineteenth Century 3 (Spring 1977), pp. 23, 25, fig. 2.
Norma Broude. "Degas's 'Misogyny'." Art Bulletin 59 (March 1977), p. 95 n. 1, assumes that it was among the works shown at the eighth Impressionist exhibition in 1886.
Eduard Hüttinger. Degas. New York, 1978, p. 80, as "La Toilette".
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, p. 13, colorpl. 30, dates it about 1885.
Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, p. 190, pl. 178, dates it about 1885; compares it to Rembrandt's "Bathsheba with King David's Letter" (about 1654; Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Eunice Lipton. "Degas' Bathers: The Case for Realism." Arts 54 (May 1980), p. 97, fig. 14, dates it about 1886.
Eugénie de Keyser. Degas: Réalité et métaphore. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1981, p. 81, as "La toilette".
Keith Roberts. Degas. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1976]. Oxford, 1982, unpaginated, under no. 45, fig. 36 (color), dates it about 1886; compares it to Degas's "Combing the Hair" (about 1890; National Gallery, London).
Michael Edward Shapiro. "Three Late Works by Edgar Degas." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 8 (Spring 1982), pp. 16, 19, fig. 12, dates it about 1855 in the text and about 1885 in the caption.
Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 277, 377.
Degas: Form and Space. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, ill. p. 7 (color detail) and fig. 45 (color).
Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers inEdgar Degas: The Painter as Printmaker. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1984, p. lxxi n. 14.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 80–81, 251, ill. (color), dates it about 1885.
Anna Gruetzner. "Degas and George Moore: Some Observations about the Last Impressionist Exhibition." Degas 1834–1984. Ed. Richard Kendall. Manchester, 1985, p. 36, states that Degas did not send ten promised pastels to the 1886 Impressonist exhibition, but that "it is quite possible that he intended" to include this picture.
Richard Thomson in "Notes on Degas's Sense of Humour." Degas 1834–1984. Ed. Richard Kendall. Manchester, 1985, p. 15, fig. 36, dates it about 1885.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 217–18, 255, pl. 152, states that Mrs. Havemeyer acquired it through Durand-Ruel who bid on it for her at the Marx sale.
Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, pp. 181–82, fig. 122.
Richard Thomson. "Degas's Nudes at the 1886 Impressionist Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 108 (November 1986), pp. 187, 190, as "La Toilette"; based on detailed reviews of the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, asserts that this picture is one of the pastels of nudes that Degas originally intended to exhibit but that were not ready in time.
Martha Ward inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, p. 443, lists it among works that may have been exhibited under nos. 19-28, Suite de nuds [sic] in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition.
Richard Thomson. The Private Degas. Exh. cat., Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. London, 1987, p. 111, fig. 147 (sideways), states that Degas's "Landscape: Steep Coast" (Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva) was created from a version of this pastel.
Gary Tinterow inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 366–67, 412, 446, 451–53, 465, no. 274, ill. (color), dates it about 1886–88; asserts that Degas must have intended to include it in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, but was either unable to finish it in time or "deliberately excluded it, for reasons yet to be discovered"; suggests that the unusual refinement of this nude compared to others of the mid-1880s may have contributed to Degas's decision not to exhibit it.
Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, p. 240, ill. p. 269 (color).
Richard Kendall. "Degas and the Contingency of Vision." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), p. 191.
Anna Gruetzner Robins. "Degas and Sickert: Notes on Their Friendship." Burlington Magazine 130 (March 1988), p. 228.
Norma Broude. "Edgar Degas and French Feminism, ca. 1880: 'The Young Spartans,' the Brothel Monotypes, and the Bathers Revisited." Art Bulletin 70 (December 1988), pp. 655, 657, fig. 18, dates it about 1885-86; assumes this work was included in the 1886 Impressionist Exhibition; calls the model "particularized to the point of quasi-portraiture".
Anne F. Maheux. Degas Pastels. Ottawa, 1988, p. 32, figs. 12, 12a (color, overall and detail).
Richard Thomson. Degas: The Nudes. London, 1988, pp. 134–35, 143, 145, 204, colorpl. 137, dates it about 1886; comments that a charcoal drawing related to this picture was used to create a pastel landscape [see Ref. Thomson 1987].
Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 347.
Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, pp. 159, 185, fig. 93, as "The Toilette (A Woman Having Her Hair Combed)," 1885.
Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux. Degas Pastels. New York, 1992, p. 174 n. 35-2, p. 182, as "Woman Drying Herself (Femme se peigner)".
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, 261–62, 337 n. 376, p. 339 nn. 389, 390.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 265, fig. 106 (installation photograph from Exh. New York 1930).
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 39, colorpl. 48.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 336, no. A242, ill. p. 334.
Richard Thomson. Monet to Matisse: Landscape Painting in France, 1874–1914. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1994, p. 104, fig. 161 (sideways).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 458, ill.
Richard Kendall. Degas, Beyond Impressionism. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 1996, pp. 93, 143, 164, 219, fig. 95, discusses this work was among pastel nudes executed without preliminary sketches; notes that it appears [in reverse] in the background of Maurice Denis's "Portrait of Degas" (1906; Musée d'Art Moderne, Troyes), painted at the home of Roger Marx.
Gary Tinterow inLa collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 64, 108, fig. 28.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inDegas and America: The Early Collectors. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2000, pp. 42, 45 n. 35, fig. 13 (color).
Jane Kinsman. Degas: The Uncontested Master. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2008, pp. 212, 215 n. 2, calls it "Nude Woman Having Her Hair Combed".
Elizabeth Cowling in Elizabeth Cowling and Richard Kendall. Picasso Looks at Degas. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2010, pp. 171, 176, 187, 197, fig. 198 (color).
George T. M. Shackelford inDegas and the Nude. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2011, pp. 129–31, 133, 155–56, 182, 194, 213, 226, fig. 138 (color), ill. p. XII (color detail) [French ed., "Degas et le nu," Paris, 2012, pp. 150, 156, 182, 207, 223, 244, 271, fig. 148 (color), ill. p. 8 (color detail)], states that it "almost certainly" belonged to Emile Boussod; adds that although it may not have been exhibited in the 1886 Impressionist exhibition, despite coinciding with a work of this description in the accompanying checklist, it eventually became "the very icon of Degas's nudes"; situates it within Degas's treatment of the figure and the development of the nude in European art, comparing it to Puvis de Chavannes's "Young Woman at Her Toilette" (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
Martin Gayford inDegas and the Nude. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2011, pp. XIV–XV [French ed., "Degas et le nu," Paris, 2012, pp. 10, 12], in an interview with Lucian Freud, asks whether Degas's treatment of the nude—citing this work as an example—anticipates his "conception of a naked portrait," to which Freud replies "Yes..."; Freud then observes that "the combination of the hair and the servant is absolutely extraordinary. The relation between the head and the hands behind is completely convincing....".
Ella Hendriks et al. Vincent van Gogh: Paintings. Vol. 2, Antwerp & Paris, 1885–1888: Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam, 2011, pp. 311, 509, fig. 85c (color).
Dorit Schäfer inDegas: Klassik und Experiment. Ed. Alexander Eiling. Exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Munich, 2014, p. 240, fig. 110.1 (color), under no. 110.
"Works in the Exhibition." Making The Met, 1870–2020. Ed. Andrea Bayer and Laura D. Corey. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2020, p. 251.
Laura D. Corey and Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. "Visions of Collecting." Making The Met, 1870–2020. Ed. Andrea Bayer with Laura D. Corey. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2020, p. 137 fig. 142 (color).
Theodore Reff, ed. The Letters of Edgar Degas.. By Edgar Degas. New York, 2020, vol. 2, p. 116 n. 1.
A lithograph after this picture was included in George William Thornley's album of fifteen lithographs after Degas, published by Boussod & Valadon in 1889.
Degas’s Woman Having Her Hair Combed is remarkable for its vibrant colors, ambitious scale, and the magnetic intimacy of its subject. Although the composition appears to be in excellent condition, every aspect of it presents risks of instability and demands careful attention from conservators.
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