Dancer with a Bouquet
Edgar Degas, French, Dancer with a Bouquet, ca. 1877-1880, Pastel and gouache over monotype on paper; 40.3 x 50.5 cm (15 7/8 x 19 7/8 inches), Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 42.213
In this investigation of light, form, and movement, footlights set aglow a young dancer with a bouquet at center stage. Behind her stand two groups of ballerinas, who are depicted with lengthy passages of bright orange, blue, and green pastel punctuated by the occasional dot of a bright flower. As a foil to these brilliant colors, Degas bathed the immediate foreground—-a balcony with spectator—-in shadowy brown and black gouache. The spectator’s blue earring relates the foreground to the vibrantly hued passages of the stage. Degas began this composition with a monotype and then covered it with pastel. He affixed a strip of paper at the sheet’s lower edge in order to add the figure and her dramatic fan, which leaves one to wonder if they were compositional afterthoughts.