Edgar Degas 1834-1917
N04712 Le Coucher (Bed-Time) c.1883
Inscribed 'Degas' b.l.
Pastel on monotype on paper, 9 x 17 1/2 (23 x 44.5)
Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933
Prov: Eugène Blot, Paris; Blot sale, Drouot, Paris, 9 and 10 May 1900, lot 188 (as 'Le Coucher'); bt. Cabrol, 1,805 frs.; C. Frank Stoop, London
Exh: Zolotoe Runo, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, April-May 1908 (21); A Collection of Drawings by Deceased Masters, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, November 1917-March 1918 (19); French Art 1200-1900, RA, London, January-March 1932 (517)
Lit: P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son Oeuvre (Paris 1946), No.748, Vol.3, p.424, repr. p.425 as 'Femme Nue sur un Lit' c.1883; Eugenia Parry Janis, 'The Role of the Monotype in the Working Method of Degas' in Burlington Magazine, CIX, 1967, p.79; Eugenia Parry Janis in exh. catalogue Degas Monotypes, Fogg Art Museum, Boston, April-June 1968, No.134, p.XXIII and repr.; Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Degas (Milan 1970), No.878, p.126 repr.
Repr: Zolotoe Runo, Nos.7-9, 1908, p.57; Michael Ayrton, Degas (Second Volume) (London 1953), pl.1 in colour
This pastel was done over a second pull of one of Degas' monotypes; the first pull is reproduced in Les Arts, No.171, 1918, p.11 and in Janis, 1968 (No.133). The original monotype is one of those made in the 'dark field manner', that is to say by covering the plate entirely with ink and wiping some of it away to make a design.
Eugenia Parry Janis has discovered that no less than 81 out of Degas' approximately 450 monotypes served as the basis for pastels. She writes of the series of nudes: 'Beginning in the early 1880's, Degas, following his usual monotype-making procedure (that of working in batches), began a series of nudes in the dark field manner, seen contre jour at various stages of the toilette. In most cases two impressions were pulled from each plate. The most brilliant ones were filed away in portfolios. The second, paler impressions became bases for pastels ... Thus a double series emerged, a night-time series of dark field first impressions, and a day-time series of pastel-worked second pullings.'
In this case - as is typical of the series - Degas has made a number of modifications throughout and has changed a night-time scene, lit from a single source like a candle, into a day-time one (thus almost obliterating a strong shadow on the wall to the right of the figure); and he has also modified the girl's pose, showing, for instance, both legs instead of only one. The monotype shows through faintly in a few places, especially in the region of the pillow, and one can also see traces of the original profile of the head.
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.150-1, reproduced p.150