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A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon), 1865

 
 
 
 
 
Details     Description
   
Artist EDGAR DEGAS

Even in so traditional a format as portraiture, Degas departed from convention and painted his subjects in informal poses. The woman depicted here, with her hand raised to her mouth and her gaze directed out of the picture, is seen in a private, unguarded moment of thought, typical of Degas's portraits. Carefully drawn, with an exquisitely modeled face, she is seated next to a table on which rests a large bouquet of flowers. The blossoms, which occupy the central portion of the canvas, are brighter in color and more freely executed than the woman, and they vie with her for our attention.

The novelty of the composition has prompted many writers to suggest that the seated woman was an afterthought. Although there remains some doubt, she is probably the wife of Degas's schoolboy friend Paul Valpincon. Degas immensely enjoyed his visits to their country house, Menil-Hubert, and given the presence of dahlias, asters, and gaillardias in the bouquet, it is likely that this work was painted there in August or September 1865. It was preceded by an exquisite pencil drawing of the sitter, also dated 1865. Far from representing an afterthought, her presence in the composition was deliberate and intentionally provocative. As Degas himself once said, "I assure you that no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament."

 

Signed and dated (lower left): Degas / 1865 (partly legible]; 1865 / Degas H. O.

Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.128)

 
Date

1865

 
Institution The Metropolitan Museum of Art
   
Medium

Oil on canvas

 
Dimensions 73.7 x 92.7 cm
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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