National Gallery of Art: Art for the Nation Edgar Degas' signature  
A Dance PortfolioThe Little Fourteen-Year-Old DancerThe Dancing LifeThe Painting
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The Dance Lesson Edgar Degas  
       
 
Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen—wax statuette, 1879-1881, yellow wax, hair, ribbon, linen bodice, satin shoes, muslin tutu, wood base, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon 1999.80.28


What did the public make of this giant doll, roughly modeled in flesh-colored wax and wearing real clothing? Degas exhibited the Little Dancer in the sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1881. Museumgoers expected to see idealized forms rendered volumetrically in smooth, white marble, bronze, or plaster (for exhibition pieces). You can imagine that the skinny young dancer, with her protruding jaw and belly, was too strong a dose of naturalism for many viewers.


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