DEGAS, Edgar
(b. 1834, Paris, d. 1917, Paris)

Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer

Bronze with patina and textiles, height 98 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

This statue of the fourteen-year-old dancer Marie van Goethem, a pupil at the École de Danse de 1'Opéra, was a bone of contention. Degas made numerous sketches in preparation for this sculpture, drawing his model from different angles - from the rear, from the side, from the front - for the most part with the feet and arms in a memorable stance: the spine straight, the shoulders pulled back, the right foot forward to provide stability, and the arms behind the back with the hands touching. The little dancer holds her head tilted backwards.

Degas gave his polychrome wax figure artificial hair and silk ribbons, a corsage, and a tutu, as well as stockings and ballet slippers.

Degas showed his work in a specially made glass case. The critics were horrified. Degas's crass realism was no less horrific to his contemporaries than his disregard for the current ideal of beauty.