La Savoisienne, ca. 1860
Oil on canvas
62.9 x 46.4 cm (24 13/16 x 18 5/16 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 23.072
The Savoisienne depicts a young girl of the mountainous Savoy region, an area adjacent to Italy and Switzerland that was annexed by France in 1860. Female figures in regional costume were popular subjects in 19th-century art but unprecedented in the work of Edgar Degas. Early in his career he spent three years in Italy, visiting family and studying the Renaissance masters. There he developed a practice of copying heads from larger compositions and then treating them as portraits. References to Florentine portrait prototypes also may be seen in this figure. Combining opposing techniques, Degas loosely renders the girl’s dress, collar, and elaborate coif to create a painterly frame around her carefully drawn and modeled face.