Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

On View at NOMA October 10, 2014-March 1, 2015

New Orleans, LA– Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, the only three-dimensional work exhibited during his lifetime, will be the highlight of a focus exhibition at NOMA opening October 10, 2014. A selection of related works of art by Degas from NOMA’s permanent collection will be displayed alongside the Little Dancer, including a pastel, a smaller bronze sculpture, and drawings and prints of one of Degas’ favored subjects-the dancer.

“Creating a focus gallery around the Little Dancer will allow us to show this work and others by Degas in depth,” NOMA’s director Susan M.Taylor said. “NOMA’s works by Degas will complement the Little Dancer and invite a close examination of Degas and his work.”

Degas modeled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen out of colored wax in 1880, but it wasn’t until 1922 when the Little Dancer and the other sculptures found in the artist’s studio were cast posthumously by the Hébrard foundry at the request of the artist’s nieces and nephew. The bronze on view is one of 23 known bronze versions of the Little Dancer, and is in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA).

Now considered one of Degas’ most important works, his sculpture of Marie van Goethem, a young novice at the Paris Opera Ballet, caused a sensation at the 1881 impressionist exhibition in Paris. Originally exhibited like an anthropological specimen under a vitrine, and embellished with a muslin tutu, linen bodice, ballet slippers, and a real hair wig tied with a satin ribbon, this wax sculpture of a novice ballerina or “rat” standing in relaxed fourth position was described by critics as “ugly” and “a threat to society.” The bronze version also feature a fabric tutu and satin ribbon. The realistic treatment of her face and the use of unorthodox materials highlighted his desire for naturalism as an artistic standard rather than idealization.

Degas and NOMA
Edgar Degas, famed French artist and one of the founders of the impressionist movement, painted Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas, 1872 during his brief stay in New Orleans. The painting has been in NOMA’s collection since 1965, when a group of enthusiastic board members and volunteers spearheaded a citywide movement to raise funds to purchase the work. Since 1965, Estelle has rarely left the museum’s walls.

“We infrequently loan Estelle to other institutions, due to its importance to the city of New Orleans,” said Lisa Rotondo-McCord, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at NOMA. “The campaign to ‘Bring Estelle Home’ was a community effort; even New Orleans schoolchildren contributed to raise the money for this important work. We often receive visitors who come to view this painting that they helped purchase.”

When the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) first inquired about a possible loan of Estelle to their exhibition Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse, NOMAinitially declined. The VMFA then made a new offer. In exchange for the loan of Estelle, they agreed to loan NOMAanother important work by Degas, one that had a parallel significance for the Virginia community, who rallied together to purchase it in the 1940s: his Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

In March, when the Little Dancer returns home, a second loan from the VMFA will arrive: Claude Monet’s Irises by the Pond.

About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing temporary exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week and is free to the public. New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit