Ballet Dancers in The Metropolitan Museum
Ballet is a type of dance that is often performed to classical music. It is known for its gracefulness, and dancers often wear tutus and pointe shoes. Ballet can be traced back to the 15th century, and it is often performed as a story ballet, with a plot and characters. The Metropolitan Museum has many paintings that depict ballet dancers. These paintings show the beauty and gracefulness of ballet, and they often capture the dancers in mid-air or in a flowing pose. The paintings are often very colorful, and they provide a glimpse into the world of ballet.
The Dance Class
This work and its variant in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris, represent the most ambitious paintings Degas devoted to the theme of the dance.
Some twenty-four women, ballerinas and their mothers, wait while a dancer executes an "attitude" for her examination.
Jules Perrot, a famous ballet master, conducts the class.
Marie van Goethem, who posed for Degas's sculpture The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, was the model for these two fine studies of a dancer adjusting her shoulder strap.
Degas often used commercially coated paper for his drawings of dancers; this sheet retains its original color.
The drawings are in pencil and ink on paper.
The Dance Lesson
Degas made various adjustments to this composition, presumably to accommodate the violinist in his final design.
He added strips of paper at the top and to the right, and there is evidence to suggest that he may have altered the dancer's pose.
A pastel study for the musician is in the Museum's collection (19.51.1).
The present work was formerly owned by Gustave Caillebotte, who probably bought it from or soon after the Impressionist exhibition of 1879.
In 1894 he bequeathed it to Renoir, who sold it shortly thereafter.
Dancers Practicing at the Barre
The watering can, visible at left, was a standard fixture in ballet rehearsal rooms.
Water was sprinkled on the floor to keep dust from rising when ballerinas danced.
Degas also used the watering can as a visual pun:its shape is mimicked by that of the dancer at right.
Shown at the 1877 Impressionist exhibition, the painting was given by Degas to the collector Henri Rouart as a replacement for an earlier work (now lost), which the artist altered and accidentally destroyed.
Louisine Havemeyer purchased it from Rouart's estate sale in 1912, for $95,700, a record price for a work by a living artist.
The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage
There are three similar versions of this scene, and their precise relationship has bedeviled scholars for decades.
The largest, painted in grisaille (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), appeared in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
The two others, tentatively dated the same year, are in the Metropolitan's collection.
This painting probably preceded the version in pastel (29.100.39), which is more freely handled.
The importance that Degas attached to the composition is evident in the preparatory drawings that he made for almost every figure, from the dancer scratching her back in the foreground to the woman yawning next to the stage flat.