Rosa Adelaide Aurora Degas, the Duchess Morbilli, ca. 1858
Black, gray, and pink wash, with white gouache, over graphite
13 13/16 x 7 5/16 inches (350 x 186 mm)
Degas' grandfather fled the revolution in France and settled in Naples, though his eldest son—Degas' father—would later return to Paris. The artist's Neapolitan relatives appear in numerous painted and drawn portraits that were executed while he was in Italy.
Rosa (1805–1879), the eldest sister of Degas' father, married Giuseppe Morbilli, Duca di S. Angelo a Frosolone, who died in 1842, leaving her with seven children to support. Her eldest son, Gustavo, died during the 1848 revolution in Italy. This early watercolor—a technique Degas rarely used—was likely executed about 1858 in Naples. The intelligent countenance of the artist's fifty-three-year-old aunt renders her among his most compelling familial subjects.