Edgar Degas

Download image: 
Edgar Degas
Study of a Male Nude
Black chalk on blue paper.
12 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches (307 x 221 mm)
Bequest of John S. Thacher.

The eldest son of a bourgeois banking family, Degas began studying law in 1853, though he soon turned his attention to copying works in the Louvre. The following year, he entered the studio of Louis Lamothe, a pupil of J. A. D. Ingres. There, and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts beginning in 1855, Degas underwent formal training in draftsmanship. He left Paris in July 1856 to study in Rome independently. Once in Italy, the artist filled sketchbooks and sheets with studies of models and copies of old masters.
The male model, with hair brushed back and a mustache is familiar from a series of academic nudes Degas made in his first two years in Rome. He leans against the wall with his left arm while his right arm is raised, and his hand holds onto a rope for support. A faint study repeats the arm to the right. The subject seems to be the unusual shape of the shadow cast by the man's body on the wall.
Near the end of his life, Degas sorted the contents of his studio, adding his signature or an inscription from memory. He noted this sheet was made in Rome in 1856, placing it early among his Roman studies, which soon became more confident and assured.


Watermark: none.
Inscribed and dated in black chalk, at lower right, "Roma 1856"; stamped in red ink on added lower right corner, "Degas"; numbered in pencil at lower left corner of secondary support, "4350A"; numbered on verso of secondary support in pencil, "11548 - A".

The artist's atelier (Lugt 658); his estate sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 2-4 July 1919, lot 116a, repr.; John S. Thacher (1904-1982), Washington, D.C.
Associated names: 

Thacher, John S., former owner.


Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 333.

Artist page: