Edgar Degas - The Star. Dancer on Pointe 1878

The Star. Dancer on Pointe 1878
The Star. Dancer on Pointe
1878 56x75cm gouache and pastel on paper, mounted on board
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA

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From Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena:
Like this dancer, Degas’s pictures of the ballet hover precariously between the magic of the footlights and the realities of life backstage. We watch this performance in close-up, either through a pair of opera glasses or from the wings, to which Degas, an elite subscriber at the Paris Opéra, enjoyed access. The dancer’s pose—a piqué en attitude—cannot be sustained for more than a second or two at a time; this fact may explain the confused relationship between her legs and torso, which Degas joined with an awkward puff of tulle beneath her tutu. His model for this figure was Melina Darde, a teenaged member of the corps de ballet, transformed, by the artist’s imagination, into a glimmering, gas-lit star.