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March 30, 2010

Object Lesson

Degas' dancer

WHAT IT IS A 29-inch bronze study for Petit Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, signed and lettered by Edgar Degas. Made between 1878 and 1880, the statue is for sale at C&M Arts in New York.

PROVENANCE "These dancers," Degas once said, "have tied up my heart with pink satin." This nude study, found in the artist's studio after his death, was one of 73 plaster and clay models for Degas' iconic Little Dancer, a 39-inch bronze now considered one of the 19th century's seminal sculptures. But it was met with scathing reviews: One critic in 1881 called the girl "a monster" who belonged in "a museum of zoology." Degas refused to show any sculpture again. After his death, 72 of the models were assigned a number and cast in bronze. This statue, in a private collection since 1951, is number 56.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS The bronze is the largest of Degas' nude studies. Robert Pincus-Witten, C&M's director of exhibitions, notes the work's patina and calls it "an almost heroic presentation of an adolescent girl."

PRICE $2.5 million.

C&M Arts, 45 East 78 Street; 212-861-0020.