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This is one of a sequence of pastels and drawings, many of which were executed on the spot, which were preparatory studies for an oil painting of the same subject now in the collection of the National Gallery, London. Miss Lala was a circus acrobat whose star turn involved being hoisted to the roof suspended by her teeth. Degas very much enjoyed popular entertainments, and executed many studies of dancers and singers. It seems that he respected, and possibly sympathised with, performers who were engaged in disciplined and strenous physical activity.

August 2004