Overview

Degas' family was relatively affluent, so he did not have to rely entirely on sales of his work for financial support. He was thus free to experiment and choose his own subjects; almost all of his portraits depict relatives or friends. He was also able to delay finishing paintings, reworking them until they met his exacting standards. Many times Degas retrieved works he had already delivered so that he could perfect them. Some he never completed.

This unfinished portrait of Degas' sister and her Neapolitan husband is one such example. (The painting was in his studio at the time of his death.) Notice how Thérèse's dress and shawl are undefined masses of color. There, Degas has scraped and rubbed the paint off the canvas. The dark lines indicate changes he intended but never made. The faces, by contrast, are carefully finished, detailed and expressive. Degas hoped to capture his sitters, he said, in "familiar and typical attitudes."

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas [1830-1917], Paris; by gift to his niece, Mlle Jeanne Fevre, Nice. (Paul Rosenberg and Co., London, New York, and Paris); sold July 1932 to Chester Dale [1882-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1931
Exposition Degas, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1931, no. 8
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
2010
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1941
Catalogue of French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 6, repro. pl. X, as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1942
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 38, repro., as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1944
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1944: 38, repro., as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1946
Lemoisne, Paul André. Degas et son oeuvre. 4 vols. Paris: Arts et metiers graphiques, 1946-1949. Vols. 2 and 3, 1946. Reprinted in 5 vols., New York and London, 1984.
1953
French Paintings from the Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1953: 45, repro., as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 100, as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 325, repro., as The Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 73, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 39, as Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 31, repro., as Duke and Duchess of Morbilli.
1970
Minervino 1970, no.217.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 98, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 474, no. 698, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 121, repro.
1997
Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 265, repro.

Conservation Notes

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