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Degas Sculptures

In the late 1950s Degas began to sculpt. He used materials that were malleable so that he could rework the waxes after long periods of time. He used these sculptures to understand the qualities of movement in humans as well as in horses, in an attempt to capture the perfect form. In his sculpture as in his paintings he attempted to catch the action of the moment. Degas had some plasters made of his original forms however he did not have any of them displayed.

The only sculpture Degas ever exhibited was Little Dancer, Age Fourteen. The wax sculpture was displayed in the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition in Paris where it received mixed reviews. Perhaps discouragement from critical comments led to Degas’ never exhibiting a sculpture again.

When Degas died in 1917 over 150 wax and clay sculptures were found in his studio in various degrees of completion and deterioration. Degas’ heirs chose 73 of the wax sculptures and one plaster to be cast in bronze by Adrien-Aurelin Hebrard, the owner of the Paris Foundry. Twenty-two bronzes were to be cast of each of the 73 sculptures and of the plaster. The first set of bronzes was purchased by American collector, Louisine Havemeyer after being persuaded by friend, Mary Cassett . Havemeyer bequeathed the set to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929.