Though technically similar to known detailed working models by other sculptors, this nude dancer is even more finished, with delicate refinements to the ear, nostrils, and mouth with a knife and fine hatching throughout the head and body. Such an extensively worked figure could embody an alternate concept. The girl seems younger than the dressed variant, which could mean they differ in meaning, since the little dancer’s age — fourteen — is critical. She has a flat chest that would not warrant the shaped bodice seen in certain drawings and in the dressed wax, and slightly large feet that suggest the beginning of growth. Her nudity and more generalized handling can be seen as in formal terms deliberately different from that of the dressed variant. Much debated over the years, the wax’s anatomical rendering is no less detailed than in the related drawings (fig. 1).
The pose is more complex than the dressed figure’s. Her canted verticality and hipshot stance are more pronounced, with her torso subtly shifting position. For all the similar supple naturalism and psychological life, this wax seems more antirealist than Little Dancer, perhaps emphasizing artfulness over the dressed variant’s modulated handling. The nude’s restless surface over veiled features is more consistent than that of the dressed dancer. Its intense opaque red and strikingly mottled surface contrasts dramatically with Little Dancer’s modulated translucence and earth tones. One difference may even record Degas’s rejection of a feature of the dressed variant. The nude’s original foot position impressed into the plaster base, which Barbour discusses in the Technical Notes above, is closer to the Little Dancer’s than the current one, as if she stepped out of and away from the dressed dancer’s footprints.
This figure’s different handling can be related nonetheless to works of the 1870s and early 1880s. Its evocative modeling and delicate tooling recall those of even early horses (for instance, Horse Walking) and its assertive red color, those of waxes given to the 1880s (Horse Rearing, and Dancer in the Role of Harlequin).