Petite danseuse de quatorze ans

Petite danseuse de quatorze ans 1880-1881 (1922)

Edgar Degas

Room 13

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About this artwork

The Belgian ballerina Marie van Goethem was 14 years old when she modelled for Degas. The original sculpture was made of wax and was so realistic with its real hair and shoes that it caused a scandal at the Impressionist exhibition in 1881. Degas never exhibited a sculpture again. After his death twenty five bronze casts were made of this sculpture.

About the creator

Edgar Degas

Parijs 1834 - Parijs 1917

Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris in 1855. He took a number of study trips to Italy and initially painted mainly portraits and historical pieces. Classical influences can clearly be seen in much of his work. After 1860, his work increasingly shows the influence of the impressionists, with whom Degas spent much time. He became especially famous as a painter and drawer of ballet dancers and bathing women, works in which he wanted to capture the movements of the human body. Around 1880 he started modelling in clay as a study for his paintings. Only at a later age, when his sight began to fail, did Degas concentrate more and more on sculpture.

Object details

material and technique: bronze, textile
kind of object: sculpture
creditline: Bruikleen / Loan: Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1939
inventory number: BEK 1239 (MK)


Degas considered many of his sculptures as simply study material for his paintings and not as final works. The art-dealer Durand-Ruel found more than eighty wax and clay models in Degas' studio after the artist died. The works were in a poor condition. Durand-Ruel made a selection and finally had 72 sculptures cast in bronze by Adrien A. Hébrard. Twenty-five copies of the sculpture of the dancer were also produced. The main difference with the original wax version is that the hair, the shoes and the blouse are cast in bronze. The hair ribbon and the skirt are still executed in fabric. One of Degas' nieces was responsible for choosing the clothing for the bronze versions. Later these versions were restored and museums themselves made choices about the fabric and the shape of the skirt and hair ribbon. The current ribbon and skirt of the dancer in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen were last replaced in 1990.