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Degas image

Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Three Studies of a Dancer
Black chalk, Conté crayon (?), and pink chalk, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper faded to light brown
Signed in black pastel at upper right corner, Degas
8 3/4 x 24 3/4 inches (475 x 628 mm)
Gift of The International Music & Art Foundation; 2001.12
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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.

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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.