The art collection assembled by Edgar Degas was remarkable not only for its quality, size, and depth but also for its revelation of Degas's artistic affinities. He acquired great numbers of works by the nineteenth-century French masters Ingres, Delacroix, and Daumier; he bought (or bartered his own pictures for) art by many of his contemporaries, particularly Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Cassatt; and he acquired works by a wide range of other artists, from eminent to little known. The extent of Degas's holdings was not recognized until after his death, when the collection came up for auction in Paris in 1918 and, in what was called the sale of the century, was widely dispersed.
Extensive research has made it possible to "reassemble" that collection in book form. This summary catalogue contains information on the more than five thousand works owned by Degas. For each work catalogued the entry includes, to the extent possible: a description with medium and dimensions; provenance information about Degas's acquisition and ownership of the work; information pertaining to the sale of the work in 1918 (or its disposal earlier), including the purchaser, purchase price, and other data; the current location; selected references; and an illustration. In a concordance, collection sale lot numbers are listed with their corresponding summary catalogue numbers. Previously, knowledge was fragmentary about the contents of Degas's collection and the whereabouts of those works. The authors of the summary catalogue accomplished their task by combing through a variety of sources, including annotated sale catalogues Degas's handwritten manuscript containing his own partial inventory, dealers' records, archives, and the contents of print and drawing study rooms, as well as by addressing inquiries to dealers, collectors, and curators, and by consulting important earlier scholarly work. While gaps remain that will surely be addressed by art historians in the future, this summary catalogue, with its wealth of new findings and its comprehensive organization, makes an invaluable contribution to scholarship on the subject, as well as to our understanding of this exceptional artist's collection.