Stamped in red ink at lower left corner, "Degas"; inscribed on verso, in blue pencil at lower left, "664"; also on verso, stamped in red ink at lower left corner, "ATELIER ER DEGAS".
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 333.
In 1872 Degas traveled with his brother to New Orleans, where their uncle had a trading firm. There he painted A Cotton Office, completed the following year and shown at the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau; smaller version at Harvard University Art Museums). Depicting fourteen figures in various modes of thought and work, the painting is a masterpiece of group portraiture. This profile study, once identified as a portrait of the artist's brother René, actually depicts John Livaudais, a partner in the cotton exporting firm of Musson, Prestidge, & Co. In the painting, he is at right with his head tilted down, examining a ledger. --Exhibition Label, from “Degas: Drawings and Sketchbooks”
Thacher, John S., former owner.