This richly illuminated scene of a nocturnal performance by the famed chanteuse Emélie Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs captures the spectacle and excitement of outdoor café-concerts in fin-de-siècleParis. Degas assiduously attended this popular and coarse entertainment for a brief period in the late 1870s and used it as an inspiration for compositions, including this lithograph made in 1877 and 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.
Thaw Catalogue Raisonné, 2017, no. 83, repr.
Denison, Cara D. et al. Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Victor Thaw. Part II. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1985, no. 46, repr. (also in Thaw III, no. 78)
Denison, Cara D. The Thaw Collection : Master Drawings and New Acquisitions. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1994, no. 78, repr.
Shapiro, Michael: Degas and the Siamese Twins of the Café-Concert: The Ambassadeurs and the Alcazar d'été. Gazette des Beaux-Arts 95, April 1980, pp. 153-64.
Brame, Philippe and Reff, Theodore: Degas et son œuvre: A Supplement. New York, 1984, cat. no. 121.
Denison, Cara D. et al. From Mantegna to Picasso : Drawings from the Thaw Collection at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. London : Royal Academy of Arts ; New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1996, no. 73, repr. in color.
Degas and America: The Early Collectors. Atlanta and Minneapolis: High Museum of Art and Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2000, cat. no. 56.
From Leonardo to Pollock: Master drawings from the Morgan Library. New York: Morgan Library, 2006, cat. no. 90, p. 188-189.