Recent acquisitions by the Metropolitan Museum : Edgar Degas

8/4/10– Acquisitions – New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art – With an already rich collection of Edgar Degas works starting with the Havemeyer donation in 1929 as well as others which have followed since, the Metropolitan Museum recently added to this ensemble two paintings and a drawing by the artist.

1. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Pastel - 48.9 x 32.4 cm
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo : Metropolitan Museum

2. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Male Nude, 1856
Oil on canvas - 34.9 x 61.6 cm
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo : Metropolitan Museum

In 2007, the museum received two donations. The first is a pastel representing a Dancer (ill. 1) from the early 1880’s. It comes from the private collection of Janice H. Levin, a generous patron to American museums who died in 1991 [1], and was given by The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation. The second is an unfinished oil on canvas representing a Male Nude (ill. 2) from a live model which dates from the period when Degas was still a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

3. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Young Woman with Ibis, 1857/58,
and c. 1860/62
Oil on canvas - 100 x 74.9 cm
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo : Metropolitan Museum

However, the most important of these three acquisitions is without a doubt the Young Woman with Ibis (ill. 3), an oil on canvas purchased in 2008 from the Stephen Mazoh Gallery [2]. This famous painting which has often been exhibited came on the market after the artist’s death in the sale of his collection [3], not that of his workshop, since its attribution had not been unanimously acknowledged on account of its atypical character. Its authenticity today can no longer be debated as there are several signed preparatory drawings, two of which are held at the Bibliotheque nationale in a sketchbook corresponding to his second stay in Rome between late October 1857 and late July 1858. According to Henri Loyrette in the exhibition catalogue for Degas at the Grand Palais in 1988 [4], only the young woman may have been painted earlier, then the artist returned to the work around 1860-1862, perhaps after a suggestion by Gustave Moreau, adding the city in the background, the flowers and, especially, the red ibis. These give the work a strange mood, oriental and Japanese at the same time. It is true that the birds seem to be stuck onto the composition. The added touches were done at the same time as Semiramis Building Babylon (Musee d’Orsay), a painting to which it is often compared.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 8 avril 2010


[1] The year she died, Janice Levin had donated Portraits at the Stock Exchange by Edgar Degas, Côtes des Grouettes near Pontoise by Camille Pissarro and Sahurs Meadows in Morning Sun by Alfred Sisley to the Metropolitan Museum.

[2] The museum states that this is a donation by Stephen Mazoh and also a purchase, meaning that the painting was sold at a lower price.

[3] 15 and 16 November 1918.

[4] Degas, Paris, 1988, entry number 39, pp. 96-97.

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