dance; costume/uniform; theater; woman; interior; leisure/recreation
Edgar Degas exhibited with the Impressionists, but did not paint open-air landscapes, nor did he fully adopt Impressionism’s broken brushwork or vivid colors. In this painting, an “action portrait” of a dancer, the background is loosely brushed to evoke the lush foliage of the stage sets for a ballet interlude in Donizetti’s opera La Favorite, which was revived in Paris in 1875. He almost certainly attended at least one performance of La Favorite, judging by the accuracy of detail in the ballerina’s costume.
Degas was a keen and knowledgeable observer of the ballet during a period when dance was considered to be in artistic decline in France and had become more of a popular entertainment. He attended rehearsals and knew the backstage world, where dancers prepared to go onstage and male “admirers” pursued flirtations. Here, Degas marks the edge of the stage with a simple black line and shows the effect of the footlights illuminating the ballerina’s stage make-up from below.
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