Edgar Degas, French, 1834-1917
Title: Two Ballet Dancers in a Dressing Room
Date: c.1880
Medium: Pastel on paper
48.5 x 64 cm
Signed: upper right: degas
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Edward Martyn, 1924
Object Number: NGI.2740
DescriptionDegas was fascinated by the ballet world in Paris. From the 1870s he observed and recorded the graceful gestures and movements of dancers, first representing performances and later studio rehearsals. In a wide variety of media, he repeatedly described the details of the dancers’ agility, precision and strength. In 1885 he gained privileged access to the Paris Opéra, which enabled him to move freely behind the scenes and sketch the dancers in their routine work environment.
In this pastel, ballerinas (more than likely members of the corps de ballet) take a moment’s rest in their dressing room before going on stage. A rail of costumes forms the backdrop and points to the fact that this may be a quick-change area. Degas skilfully renders the textures of their tulle skirts, tied with large blue sashes, as well as the artificial light that illuminates the dancer with her back to the viewer. The slightly elevated viewpoint and the cropped nature of the composition contribute to the overall sense of immediacy of this image. It is likely that the novelist and playwright Edward Martyn, who visited Paris with fellow writer George Moore in 1886, bought this pastel directly from the artist’s dealer Paul Durand-Ruel.

March 2016
ProvenanceBought from the Artist by Mr Edward Martyn in Paris, 1886; bequeathed, Mr E. Martyn, 1924
Exhibition HistoryDrawings from the National Gallery of Ireland, Wildenstein, London and New York, 1967

Edgar Degas and the Italians in Paris, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, 14 September - 16 November 2003

Impressionist Interiors, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 10 May - 10 August 2008

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