Dancers Practicing at the Barre, 1877
Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
Mixed media on canvas; 29 3/4 x 32 in. (75.6 x 81.3 cm)
Signed (left center): Degas
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.34)
This painting appears to give a random glance through an open door into a dance studio, yet, as always with Degas, the composition was meticulously worked out and the figures carefully rendered. Degas created a witty analogy between the watering can (used to wet down the dust on the studio floor) and the dancer at the right: the handle on the side imitates the dancer's left arm, the handle at the top mimics her head, and the spout approximates her right arm and raised leg. After the work was completed, Degas regretted the visual pun and asked the owner, his friend Henri Rouart, if he could take the picture back to rework it. Rouart refused because he knew that Degas had already ruined works with his revisions.