Description: Les pointes
stamped with the signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658; lower right)
oil on canvas
19 5/8 x 24 in. (50 x 61 cm.)
Painted circa 1877-78
Artist or Maker: Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Exhibited: Paris, Galerie André Weil.
Literature: G. Rivière, Anciens et Modernes, Mr Degas, Bourgeois de Paris, Paris, 1938, p. 59 (illustrated).
P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. II, Paris, 1946, no. 452 (illustrated p. 251).
Provenance: The artist's studio; second sale, Galerie Georges Petit, 11-13 December 1918, lot 3 (illustrated pl. 4).
M. and Mme. Adolphe Friedmann, Paris, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Notes: PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MR AND MRS A. FRIEDMANN, PARIS.
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As the paradigmatic painter of modern life among the Impressionists, Edgar Degas focused on scenes of urban entertainment and concentrated
especially on images of the ballet. He portrayed almost every step and setting in the process from practice to performance. His numerous works in myriad media-paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints, almost relentlessly detail the ritual training in rehearsal rooms, the expectant preparations in the wings, and the realization of the dancers' efforts in the final performance, as in the present work Les pointes. On stage, Degas's dancers are often seen from angles which evoke specific locations within the theater, whether from the audience or the orchestra in front, theater boxes above, or the wings at either side.
Degas' unequivocal obsession with dance, the pictures of this subject comprise more than half of the artist's total output, has led scholars to suggest parallels between the artist's activities in creating a canvas and the dancer's exertions in preparing a performance. According to Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge: 'the dance was supremely and self-evidently an art of the body. It was also chaste, artificial, and the upshot of rigorous preparation and practice. Repetition took place in the dance studio tirelessly. It was not improvised but practiced in the most extreme sense, to the point of pain and deformation. When a dancer returned to a position again she was like a model taking a pose; but also like a painter, making a drawing, repeating it, tracing it, learning it by heart. And when she performed, her performance was effortless in its appearance, filled with an abstract joy' (R. Gordon & A. Forge, Degas, New York, 1988, p. 159). The female dancer in the present work appears to balance effortlessly on one foot 'sur une pointe', striking a delicate but well practised pose. The bouquets of flowers at her feet attest to the appreciation of her skill.
There are three drawings of this pose (Lot 246, second studio sale; and lots 181 & 226, third studio sale) and a dancer in a similar pose is seen in the pastel Premier Sujet (L.493), previously in the collection of Mrs Workman, United States, now in the Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, California; and in Danseuses en blanc (L.494) previously in the collection of Mrs Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen; and again in the celebrated oil, Classe de ballet (L.479) now in the Pennsylvannia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.
Les Pointes, like the following painting entered the Friedmann collection shortly after it was purchased from Degas's second studio sale at Galerie Georges Petit in 1918 and has remained in the family collection until the present day.
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