Edgar Degas 1834-1917
N05919 Danseuse regardant la Plante de son Pied droit (Dancer looking at the Sole of her Right Foot) c.1910-12
Stamped 'Degas', '59/C' and founder's stamp 'CIRE | PERDUE | A.A. HÉBRARD' on base
Bronze, 18 5/8 x 9 3/4 x 7 1/2 (47.3 x 24.8 x 19)
Purchased from Roland, Browse and Delbanco (Benson and Cleve Funds) 1949
Prov: Mlle Jeanne Fèvre (the artist's niece); with Galerie Kaganovich, Paris; with Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London
Lit: Alice Michel, 'Degas et son Modèle' in Mercure de France, February 1919, pp.457-78 and 16 February 1919, pp.623-39; Paul-André Lemoisne, 'Les Statuettes de Degas' in Art et Décoration, XXXV, 1919, p.115; Germain Bazin, 'Degas Sculpteur' in L'Amour de l'Art, July 1931, p.301; John Rewald, Degas: Works in Sculpture (New York 1944), No.LXI, pp.10-11, 27, repr. p.127 (assigned to the period 1882-95); John Rewald, Degas: Sculpture (London 1957), No.LXI, pp.23, 155, repr. pls.58, 61; Charles W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas (Princeton 1976), pp.18-19, 30, 35, 69, 71, 107, 114
This pose evidently fascinated Degas towards the end of his life, as he used it for at least four sculptures (Rewald Nos.XLV, XLIX, LX and LXI), with minor variations in the position of the legs and the twist of the body, and for two further sculptures (Nos.LXII and LXV) in which the figure faces forwards instead of turning to look at the raised foot. The earliest appears to be No.XLV which has a fairly smooth finish and was sent to be cast in plaster about 1900. The present work, with its rough vigorous surface and the lack of definition of the extremities, is clearly a late piece.
One of his models has described how she posed in 1910 for a sculpture in this attitude; sittings continued for several months, sometimes twice a day. The work was advancing well, but the artist, never satisfied, kept trying to improve it by raising the knee or turning the torso, and in the end it fell to pieces. (He made difficulties for himself by using inadequate armatures and by inserting pieces of cork which kept coming to the surface). Straightaway he began another figure in the same pose, which he worked at for some months, with four sittings a week, then abandoned early in January 1911.
As he was nearly blind at this period, he was obliged to sit very close to the model and to check the position of the muscles or the curves of a haunch by feeling them with his hand.
It is not clear whether this is the sculpture modelled in 1910-11, as the latter is said to have been modelled in plastilene whereas the original of this work is in brownish-black wax. He seems to have given up working altogether in 1912, when he was forced to move out of his three-floor apartment-studio in the Rue Victor Massé.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.155-6, reproduced p.155