Edgar Degas
Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle

Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle
1895
Silver print from a glass negative, enlargement by Tasset
H. 35.5; W. 29 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Autoportrait avec Yvonne et Christine Lerolle [Self-portrait with Yvonne and Christine Lerolle]


The photograph was taken at the home of the painter Henri Lerolle, a great friend of Degas. Degas himself can be seen in it, in the company of Lerolle's two daughters, Christine and Yvonne, later Mme Louis Rouart and Mme Eugène Rouart.
Although this image is not mentioned in the sources of the time, there is no doubt about its attribution to Degas. The pedigree of the work is absolutely certain: this print remained in the hands of Lerolle's descendants until it was acquired by the Musée d'Orsay in 1998. In particular, the type of printing, the composition and lighting, all correspond perfectly with documented photographs by Degas. Indeed it was known that Degas liked to direct his photographs, bullying his models into holding complicated poses, without any intention of simulating spontaneity. Here, the overall composition is harmonious and yet strange. On the left, Yvonne is leaning on a pedestal supporting a bronze version of Rodin's Ugolino.

As always in Degas' most successful photographs, the scene is bathed in half-light. The outline of the artist can be made out as a shadow in the foreground, with only his face lit in profile. The dresses of the girls seem to shine in the semi-darkness. As the master intended, the light sources remain invisible: no doubt a combination of several lamps. Finally the image must date from the end of 1895, the year when Degas took almost all his photographs, and which corresponds to the age of the models.


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