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Degas image

Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Mademoiselle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs, 1877/85
Pastel over lithograph
Signed and dated at lower right, in pastel, Degas / 85.
9 1/16 x 7 7/8 inches (230 x 200 mm)
Thaw Collection; 1997.88
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This vivid scene of a performance by the famed chanteuse Emilie Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs captures the spectacle and excitement of the outdoor café-concert in fin-de-siècle Paris. Degas was a frequent visitor to this popular and coarse form of entertainment for a brief period during the late 1870s and used it as inspiration for compositions, such as this 1877 lithograph that he reworked in pastel nearly a decade later. The three silhouetted female spectators in the immediate foreground—added entirely in pastel to the underlying print—contrast with the spotlighted singer, who is performing her frenzied, comic dance, with arms raised and fingers splayed, in her trademark style épileptique.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.