1834-1917 | French
Dancer Putting on Her Stocking
Signed, numbered, dated, and stamped with foundry mark “Degas / 70|D / 1998 / CIRE C.VALSUANI PERDUE”
A ballet dancer putting on her stocking is the subject of this bronze by the great Impressionist Edgar Degas. Degas was renowned for his ability to capture the nuances of the body's movement, particularly in his paintings and sculptures of ballet dancers behind the scenes of the stage. In the present bronze, his model strikes a pose that could not long be sustained, lending the work a sense that it is a moment frozen in time. Both intimate and graceful, the figure reveals Degas' career-long obsession with capturing the figure in motion.
Known as the painter of dancing girls, Degas' contribution to the Impressionist cannon largely consisted of pastels and oils that captured the beauty of the modern ballet. Rather than depict these young dancers in their moments of glory on stage, he instead revealed the world of dance behind the curtain. Paintings and sculptures such as the present piece captured the most intimate and commonplace movements of the ballet - putting on costumes, stretching at the bar, adjusting hair and tutus - all with an inherent sense of grace and balance.
Of the seventy-four wax sculptures created by Degas during his lifetime, forty of them depicted dancers, the present included. The bronze is a sought-after rarity in terms of Degas’ sculptures. Not only are his dancers the most desirable of his work, but this bronze is also distinguished by the fact that it is a Valsuani bronze, meaning it faithfully records Degas’ wax version’s pose as it appeared at the time of its creation. Most Degas' bronzes that are found on the market were cast by Hébrard – these serialized bronzes are surmoulages, or “aftercasts,” that were cast from the modèle bronzes currently in the Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena). Because these bronzes are second generation, they are smaller and far less detailed that the current bronze.
This example, however, was cast by Valsuani from a plaster that was taken directly from Degas’ waxes, according to scholarship by the art historian Dr. Gregory Hedberg. These plasters were created by Degas’ sculptor friend Albert Bartholomé shortly after Degas completed his wax figurines. Thus, they record the earliest versions of Degas’ wax sculptures, before they were damaged by time or handling, and before Degas himself altered the works. The Hébrard bronzes, on the other hand, actually represent Degas’ reworking of the original sculptures.
Because they are cast directly from the plaster, the Valsuani bronzes are also larger, crisper, and more highly defined than the Hébrard bronzes. Since the original plasters were discovered in the 1990s, similar Valsuani bronzes have been exhibited around the world, including The Hermitage (St. Petersburg) and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Original wax model executed circa 1885-1890
Bronze cast 1998
17 3/8" high x 7" wide x 10 1/4" deep