Little Dancer Aged Fourteen
Study in the Nude of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Nude Little Dancer)
Fourth Position Front, on the Left Leg
Technical Notes: Conclusions
The technical examination of Little Dancer uncovers some of the intricacies of its facture, yet as is often the case, many questions linger. One of the most vexing remains the inspiration for the method of manufacture; it is both traditional and innovative. Degas translated into his own practice the making and modeling of a sculpture from inside out, commencing with a customary metal armature augmented with paintbrushes and springs that he filled with a rope-wrapped organic core bundle, first coated in clay and finally clad in the wax he modeled, tooled, pigmented, and even painted. The fabric, netting, and hair additions came later. Little Dancer is neither a doll, having appendages and head made of wax with mere stuffing for the body, nor an anthropological specimen fashioned with rigorous scientific finesse. Furthermore, such a complex procedure, one he never again duplicated, argues that Degas was not working entirely alone; it is likely that he would have required assistance with technique, or at the very least with procurement of materials. Hence, this work can be added to a growing list of sculpture that required collaboration. Many of the modeling materials employed in the assemblage are the same as those found in other works, yet the final product is unique. Findings addressed herein merely create avenues for further study, some addressed in Lindsay’s entry text below.
The artist, Paris; his five heirs; possibly sold separately from the other lifetime works before 1929 or after 1931, to (A. A. Hébrard, Paris); his widow, Mme A. A. Hébrard, and/or his daughter, Nelly Hébrard, Paris; consigned 1955, with most of the other lifetime works, to (M. Knoedler and Company, Inc., New York); sold May 25, 1956, to Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia.
6me Exposition de peinture . . . , 35, boulevard des Capucines, Paris, 1881, cat. 12 (exh. cat. Impressionist 1881). Galerie A. A. Hébrard, Paris, 1920 (no exh. cat. known). Exposition des Sculptures de Degas, Mai – Juin, 1921, Galerie A. A. Hébrard, Paris, 1921, cat. 73 (exh. cat. Hébrard 1921, annotated addition under “Divers”). Exposition Degas au profit de la ligue franco-anglo-américaine contre le cancer, Galerie Georges Petit and Galerie A. A. Hébrard, Paris, 1924, possibly cat. 290 or not in exh. cat. (exh. cat. Petit 1924). Possibly Trois siècles d’art français, Paris, 1920s – 1930s (no exh. cat. known). Possibly Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1929. Edgar Degas, 1834 – 1917: Original Wax Sculptures, M. Knoedler and Company, Inc., New York, 1955, cat. 20, as Ballet Dancer, Dressed (exh. cat. Knoedler 1955). Sculpture by Degas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1956 (no exh. cat.). Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, 1991 (exh. cat. Luchs 1991, unnumbered). An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, 1999 – 2000 (no exh. cat.).