Study in the Nude of Little Dancer has generally been considered a preliminary attempt at sculpting the youthful dancer in three dimensions even though its relationship to Little Dancer is more complex. Similarly, drawings and sketches for both Little Dancer and Study in the Nude exist (figs. 1, 2). While there is neither an established relationship between the dates of the drawings nor a precise understanding of their role in the creation of the sculpture, Degas was clearly attempting to render multiple viewpoints in a two-dimensional format. In the charcoal drawing Three Studies of a Nude Dancer (see fig. 2), a small outline in the upper right corner appears to be a sketch for an armature and is particularly relevant to the fabrication of Little Dancer.
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: Overview
Unique in Degas’s sculptural repertoire, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is distinguished by its scale, complexity, and range of materials. Furthermore, as the only sculpture exhibited in Degas’s lifetime, Little Dancer raises questions unlike those considered for other works. For example, was her fabrication complex and fastidious because she was always intended for exhibition? Or was it simply because she was so meticulously created that Degas was content to exhibit her? That he originally exhibited an empty case implies the answer is not straightforward (see Lindsay in the entry text below). Nonetheless, although the sculpture is different from others by Degas, it is not entirely alien to his corpus.
Fig. 1: Degas, Three Studies of a Dancer in Fourth Position, 1879/1880, charcoal and pastel with stumping, and touches of brush and black wash, on greyish-tan laid paper with blue fibers, laid down on gray wove paper, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Adele R. Levy, 1962.703. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago
Fig 2: Degas, Three Studies of a Nude Dancer, c. 1878, charcoal heightened with white chalk on gray wove paper. Private collection. Photo: Bridgeman Images