Degas's Little Dancer

October 5, 2014 – January 11, 2015

West Main Floor Gallery 82

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    Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878–1881pigmented beeswax, clay, metal armature, rope, paintbrushes, human hair, silk and linen ribbon, cotton and silk tutu, linen slippers, on wooden base
    overall without base: 98.9 x 34.7 x 35.2 cm (38 15/16 x 13 11/16 x 13 7/8 in.) weight: 49 lb. (22.226 kg)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    Study in the Nude of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Nude Little Dancer), c. 1878–1881pigmented beeswax, plaster core, metal and wood armatures, on plaster and wooden bases
    overall without base: 69.5 x 29.3 x 30.3 cm (27 3/8 x 11 9/16 x 11 15/16 in.) overall (wood base): 3.5 x 48 x 31.1 cm (1 3/8 x 18 7/8 x 12 1/4 in.)
    overall (plaster base): 5 x 34.6 x 26.8 cm (1 15/16 x 13 5/8 x 10 9/16 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    Fourth Position Front, on the Left Leg, c. 1885/1890pigmented beeswax, metal armature, cork, on wooden base
    overall without base: 60.3 x 37.8 x 34.1 cm (23 3/4 x 14 7/8 x 13 7/16 in.)
    height (of figure): 56.8 cm (22 3/8 in.)
    Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    The Dance Lesson, c. 1879oil on canvas, overall: 38 x 88 cm (14 15/16 x 34 5/8 in.)
    framed: 59.7 x 108.3 x 5.1 cm (23 1/2 x 42 5/8 x 2 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    The Dance Class (Ecole de Danse), c. 1873oil on canvas, 47.6 x 62.2 cm (18 3/4 x 24 1/2 in.)
    Trustees of the Corcoran Collection (William A. Clark Collection)

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    The Curtain, c. 1880pastel over charcoal and monotype on laid paper mounted on board
    sheet: 29 x 33.3 cm (11 7/16 x 13 1/8 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    Ballet Dancers, c. 1877pastel and gouache over monotype
    overall: 29.7 x 26.9 cm (11 11/16 x 10 9/16 in.)
    framed: 46.6 x 43.5 x 6.3 cm (18 3/8 x 17 1/8 x 2 1/2 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

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    Dancers at the Old Opera House, c. 1877pastel over monotype on laid paper
    overall: 21.8 x 17.1 cm (8 9/16 x 6 3/4 in.)
    framed: 35.5 x 31.1 x 3.8 cm (14 x 12 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

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    Ballet Scene, c. 1907pastel on greenish transparent tracing paper
    overall: 76.8 x 111.2 cm (30 1/4 x 43 3/4 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

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    Paul MatheyEdgar Degas, 1882graphite on paperboard
    overall: 48.2 x 31.5 cm (19 x 12 3/8 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

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    Dancer Seen from Behind and Three Studies of Feet, c. 1878black chalk and pastel on blue-gray laid paper
    overall: 45.6 x 59.8 cm (17 15/16 x 23 9/16 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Myron A. Hofer in memory of his mother, Mrs. Charles Hofer

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    Edgar Degas, executed in collaboration with Vicomte Ludovic Napoléon LepicThe Ballet Master (Le maître de ballet), c. 1874monotype heightened and corrected with white chalk or wash
    plate: 56.5 x 70 cm (22 1/4 x 27 9/16 in.)
    sheet: 62 x 85 cm (24 7/16 x 33 7/16 in.)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection

Overview: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (1878–1881), Edgar Degas’s groundbreaking statuette of a young ballerina that caused a sensation at the 1881 impressionist exhibition, takes center stage in an exploration of Degas’s fascination with ballet and his experimental, modern approach to his work. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ world-premiere musical Little Dancer, which runs from October 25 through November 30, 2014.

Degas was a keen observer and wry but sympathetic chronicler of the daily life of dancers, depicting their world off-stage, at rehearsal or in the wings. Degas’s Little Dancer showcases this world of gaslight and struggle, as captured by the master.

One of the Gallery’s most popular works of art, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen will be presented with 14 additional works from the Gallery’s collection, including the monumental pastel Ballet Scene (c. 1907), monotypes and smaller original statuettes by Degas that are related to Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The exhibition also includes the oil painting The Dance Class (c. 1873) from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The National Gallery of Art has the largest and most important collection of Degas’s surviving original wax sculptures in the world. Its wax version of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is the only one formed by the artist’s own hands and the only sculpture he ever showed publicly. Degas did not carve sculpture but used an additive process. Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was modeled in wax over a metal armature, bulked with organic materials including wood, rope, and even old paintbrushes in the arms. Degas elevated the sculpture’s realism by affixing a wig of human hair and giving his ballerina a cotton-and-silk tutu, a cotton faille bodice, and linen slippers.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Image: Edgar Degas; Little Dancer Aged Fourteen; 1878–1881; pigmented beeswax, clay, metal armature, rope, paintbrushes, human hair, silk and linen ribbon, cotton and silk tutu, linen slippers, on wooden base; National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Related Artists

Degas, Edgar
French
, 1834 - 1917
Mathey, Paul
French
, 1844 - 1929

Related Programming & Events

National Gallery of Art
The Radicalism of the "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen"


Sunday, November 16, noon
West Building Lecture Hall

Inside Look: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

Sunday, November 23, 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall

Kennedy Center
Little Dancer Discussion Series

Degas & His Dancers
Saturday, November 8, 2014, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

The Most Famous Obscure Dancer in the World: Marie van Goethem
Saturday, November 15, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

The Life of a 19th Century Dancer: Paris Opera Ballet and Les Petits Rats
Saturday, November 22, 2014
, noon
Kennedy Center Grand Foyer

"Little Dancer" at The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center production of Little Dancer runs in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater from October 25 to November 30, 2014. The musical features book and lyrics by Tony Award® winner Lynn Ahrens, music by Tony Award® winner Stephen Flaherty, and direction and choreography by five-time Tony Award® winner Susan Stroman. Part fact, part fiction, and set in the harsh backstage world of the Paris Opera Ballet, Little Dancer is inspired by the young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and became, inadvertently, the most famous dancer in the world. Torn by her family’s poverty, her debt to the artist and the lure of wealthy men, Marie struggles to keep her place in the ballet corps—a girl on the verge of womanhood, caught between the conflicting demands of life and art.

Tickets available here

#LittleDancerDC

Behind the Curtain with Tiler Peck

Behind the Scenes with Tiler Peck

Go behind the scenes with New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck, the title role of Young Marie in the Kennedy Center's world premiere musical Little Dancer.

Courtesy of the Kennedy Center, producers of the musical Little Dancer