Three Studies of a Dancer
Signed in black pastel at upper right corner, Degas
Gift of The International Music & Art Foundation
One of Degas' principal concerns as a draftsman was analyzing the movements and gestures of the female body. The three studies on this sheet depict the teenage dancer Marie van Goethem and were produced in preparation for the celebrated wax sculpture Little Dancer, Fourteen Years Old. The sculpture was briefly exhibited at the 1881 Salon, where the artist's inclusion of a wig and a fabric bodice and skirt caused a sensation.
Degas made numerous studies of Marie between 1878 and 1880. Here the artist studied her from three different angles, attempting to understand the figure in the round in preparation for sculpting it. As the chalk strokes show, her foreshortened left foot posed a problem when seen from behind, as did her bent arms in profile.