Object Image

The dancers in Degas's painting are clouded in a mist of tulle, but two striking heads of red hair seem to anchor the blurred forms moving in space. Arms and legs curve and stretch, delicate white skirts toss and sway. The white tutus depicted here are the practice dress worn by the younger dancers at the Paris Opéra in the late nineteenth century.

Since they were small children, the dancers would have trained daily in the steps and positions that are the vocabulary of classical ballet, performing them over and over again. Degas repeats these characteristic movements in many of his pictures, perhaps not entirely for aesthetic reasons: repetition is exactly what the dancers do. This also seems ...

c. 1890-1900
Oil on canvas
72.5 x 73.0cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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