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Degas, Observer of Daily Toil

On 02 October 2020, by Claire Papon

This drawing of a laundress by Edgar Degas bears his and his studio’s stamp. It is a study for a work at the Metropolitan Museum.

Degas, Observer of Daily Toil

Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Repasseuse à contre-jour (Woman Ironing in Silhouette) , charcoal drawing, c. 1873, 42 x 30.5 cm.
Estimate: €60,000/80,000

The fact that our charcoal is the same size as the definitive New York painting Woman Ironing, on which traces of the grid are also visible, is rare enough to be worth mentioning. This is the first version in a series of three. In a somewhat gloomy atmosphere, the silhouette of a woman bent over her work stands out against the white cloth. Our drawing, offered in good condition, has not left its Paris collection for a long time. It was included in the 1975 Schmidt Gallery show (number 58) and the 1984 Kunsthalle Tübingen exhibition, both devoted to Edgar Degas. The most recent description was in the catalogue of the 1988-1989 monographic exhibition in Paris, Ottawa and New York. Pressers and laundresses were one of Degas' favourite subjects between 1869 and 1895, just as they were in Zola’s 1877 L'Assommoir. They are often isolated and seen in darkness. Around 1884-1886, Degas repeatedly painted two women in a laundry, one yawning, the other strenuously ironing. He seems to have been interested in each gesture. A keen observer, his vision is neither heroic, nor caricatured, nor complacent, but rather tender.

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