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Facture Volume 3: Degas

Edited by Daphne Barbour and Suzanne Quillen Lomax

Volume 3 of the conservation division’s biennial journal Facture is dedicated to the works of the Edgar Degas (1834–1917) in honor of the centenary of his death. This volume is the first to focus on the work of a single artist, and it features a wide range of essays that draw on the tremendous wealth of the Gallery’s collection and its collaborative scientific, scholarly, and conservation expertise. The essays include discussions of the notion of “finish” in Degas’s paintings, the complex makeup of his wax sculptures, the casting of posthumous bronzes, his innovative use of multiple layers of pastel and fixative in a later pastel on paper, etchings created in collaboration with Mary Cassatt, and even a sonnet that Degas wrote to his “little dancer.”

Edgar Degas, Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey, 1866, reworked 1880–1881 and c. 1897, the under image is an infrared reflectogram (1100–1400 nm) exposing the various layers of the composition.

 

Edgar Degas, The Tub, c. 1889

Edgar Degas, The Tub, c. 1889, pigmented beeswax, plastiline, plaster, lead, wood, cloth, cork, wire, on wooden base, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1985.64.48

Edgar Degas, Ballet Scene, c. 1907

Edgar Degas, Ballet Scene, c. 1907, pastel on greenish transparent tracing paper, Chester Dale Collection, 1963.10.16

An adolescent ballerina stands before us with her hands clasped behind her lower back, her head tipped back, and her chin thrust forward. The skin of her face, arms, chest, and legs has been painted bronze-brown, and her body faces us in this photograph. The sleeveless putty-gray bodice of her costume fits tightly above a layered, fabric, pale, tea-brown tutu, and she wears ballet shoes. Her hair is pulled back but bangs sweep across her forehead, brushing her nearly closed, heavy eyelids. Her lips are slightly parted and light catches the broad planes of her cheekbones. Her shoulders are drawn back by her pose, holding her hands behind her with arms straight, and her hips jut slightly forward. She stands with her right foot extended in front of her, with both feet turned out, parallel to each other.

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, plaster cast possibly 1920/1921, after original wax modelled 1878-1881, painted plaster, fabric, metal armature, on plaster base, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1985.64.62

Contents

Degas and Difficulty

Richard Kendall

The Question of Finish in the Work of Edgar Degas

Ann Hoenigswald and Kimberly A. Jones

Edgar Degas’ Wax Sculptures: Characterization and Comparison with Contemporary Practice

Suzanne Quillen Lomax, Barbara H. Berrie, Michael Palmer

Facture Cover Page

Casting Degas’s Sculptures into Bronze: A Closer Look
Daphne Barbour and Shelley Sturman

Technical Exploration of Edgar Degas’ Ballet Scene: A late pastel on tracing paper
Michelle Facini, Kathryn A. Dooley, John K. Delaney, Suzanne Quillen Lomax, Michael Palmer

In Focus

Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt: A Comparison of Drawings for Soft-Ground Etchings
Kimberly Schenck

The Little Dancer in Wax and Words: Reading a Sonnet by Edgar Degas
Alison Luchs

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