Edgar Degas was a regular presence at the popular, coarse entertainments that proliferated in late nineteenth-century Paris, notably outdoor café-concerts along the Champs Elysées. In this sheet he sought to recreate the experience of watching the famed chanteuse Emélie Bécat perform at night. To the foreground of an earlier lithograph depicting her onstage he added three women spectators in pastel. To their right he also extended the image with a vertical strip of paper, creating a third green pillar that presses against the picture plane. This deceptively simple addition brings the viewer into the scene, seated directly behind the women with a narrow view to Becat’s comic dance.
Edgar Degas, Mademoiselle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs, 1877–1885; Pastel over lithograph on paper mounted on paperboard. Thaw Collection; 1997.88.