Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando

February 15 through May 12, 2013
Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando image

For several successive evenings in January 1879, Edgar Degas (1834–1917) attended performances at the Cirque Fernando by one of the most famous circus performers of his time, an aerialist known as Miss La La. For her extraordinary act, Miss La La was slowly hoisted nearly seventy feet into the circus's domed ceiling, suspended solely from a rope clenched between her teeth.

Degas produced a number of studies—drawings, pastels, and an oil sketch—of the performer and the circus building before creating his celebrated painting, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando. The exhibition brings together for the first time Degas's remarkable painting, on loan from the National Gallery in London, and nearly all of the related preparatory works. Also on view are images of the Cirque Fernando by Degas's contemporaries, photographs of Miss La La and her troupe, and posters and other printed material.

Lead funding for Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando is provided by Karen H. Bechtel and by a grant from the Florence Gould Foundation. Further generous support is provided by the Alex Gordon Fund for Exhibitions and the Franklin Jasper Walls Lecture Fund.

Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879
Oil on canvas, 117.2 x 77.5 cm.
Bought, 1925 (NG4121)
National Gallery, London, Great Britain
© National Gallery, London / Art Resource, NY