Musée d'Orsay: Edgar Degas Schoolgirl

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Circa 1880
H. 29.3; W. 12.7; D. 15.6 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt


L'écolière [Schoolgirl]

When Degas died on 27 September 1917, his heirs entrusted the inventory of his works to the renowned art dealers Durand-Ruel and Vollard. According to Durand-Ruel they found "about one hundred and fifty pieces scattered over three floors [...] the majority were in pieces and some were crumbling to dust. We put those we thought presentable to one side - about a hundred." They were wax figures, and in the end, only about eighty were kept for restoration. Schoolgirl featured in this final inventory under the title "Wax Girl".
On 13 May 1918, a contract was signed with the Hébrard workshops to produce a bronze edition of the sculptures. Schoolgirl, however, did not feature in the castings from the first edition exhibited in Paris in May-June 1921.

The statuette did not reappear until 1955, during an exhibition in New York. Knoedler and Company, the gallery hosting the event, commissioned Nelly Hébrard to produce twenty bronzes the following year. These increased subsequently with Nelson Rockefeller having five hundred copies made from one of them. As for this plaster, it is extremely precious as it comes from the Hébrard foundry, where it served as a model, as the numerous foundry marks on pieces using its mould indicate.

The age of the girl and the position of her body make this reminiscent of Degas' most famous sculpture Little Dancer, aged 14. The spontaneity of this schoolgirl, who seems to have been sketched in the street, is particularly delightful.