Edgar Degas

Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando


Not on display

Edgar Degas 1834–1917
Original title
Miss Lala au Cirque Fernando
Pastel on paper
Support: 610 × 476 mm
frame: 750 × 620 × 60 mm
Presented by Samuel Courtauld 1933

Display caption

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.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Edgar Degas 1834-1917

N04710 Miss Lala au Cirque Fernando (Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando) 1879

Stamp of the Degas sale 'Degas' b.l.; inscribed 'Miss Lala | 24 Janv. 79' t.l. and '12c en bas | 6c à droite | 4c en haut' b.r.
Pastel on paper, 24 x 18 3/4 (61 x 47.5)
Presented by Samuel Courtauld 1933
Prov: 1st Degas sale, Petit, Paris, 6 May 1918, lot 251 repr.; bt. Jos. Hessel, Paris, 9000 frs.; Ölaf Orvig, Bergen; Walther Halvorsen, Oslo and Paris; through Leicester Galleries, London; Samuel Courtauld, London, 1926
Exh: Degas-Utställning, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, January-February 1920 (23); Degas-Udstilling, Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, March-April 1920 (23); Samuel Courtauld Memorial Exhibition, Tate Gallery, May-September 1948 (901)
Lit: Paul Jamot, Degas (Paris 1924), p.148; Paul Jamot and Percy Moore Turner, Collection de Tableaux Français faite à Londres 20 Portman Square par Samuel et Elizabeth Courtauld 1914-1931 (London 1932), No.15, p.9, photograph mounted on facing page; P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son Oeuvre (Paris 1946), No.523, Vol.2, p.296, repr. p.297; Douglas Cooper, Pastelle von Edgar Degas (Basle 1952), p.20, repr. pl.14 in colour; Douglas Cooper, The Courtauld Collection (London 1954), No.114, p.135, repr. pl.17; Douglas Cooper, 'Catalogue of the Courtauld Collection' in Burlington Magazine, XCVI, 1954, p.121; Martin Davies, National Gallery Catalogue of the French School (London 1957), pp.72-4; Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L'Opera Completa di Degas (Milan 1970), No.561, p.113 repr.

Dated 24 January 1879. One of the preparatory drawings (third in order of date) for the oil painting of the same title in the National Gallery, London.

As the painting appeared in the catalogue of the fourth Impressionist exhibition of 1879 as 'Miss Lola, au Cirque Fernando', the inscription 'Miss Lala' on this and several of the other drawings was thought for a long time to be incorrect. However Martin Davies has shown, by reference to contemporary press reports, posters and so on, that her name was in fact Lala or La La. She is said to have been a negress or mulatto who performed feats of strength; in the picture she is seen being hauled up to the roof of the Cirque Fernando (a well-known circus in Montmartre, later known as the Cirque Médrano) by means of a rope held between her teeth.

This drawing differs from the finished work in the position of the legs and in a few other minor respects.

Published in:
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, p.148, reproduced p.148

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