The watering can, visible at left, was a standard fixture in ballet rehearsal rooms; water was sprinkled on the floor to keep dust from rising when ballerinas danced. Degas also used the watering can as a visual pun: its shape is mimicked by that of the dancer at right. Shown at the 1877 Impressionist exhibition, the painting was given by Degas to the collector Henri Rouart as a replacement for an earlier work (now lost), which the artist altered and accidentally destroyed. Louisine Havemeyer purchased it from Rouart's estate sale in 1912, for $95,700, a record price for a work by a living artist.
Inscription: Signed (left center): Degas
Henri Rouart, Paris (given to him by the artist; until d. 1912; his estate sale, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Paris, December 10, 1912, no. 177, for Fr 435,000 to Durand-Ruel for Havemeyer); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1912–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 120–21, ill.)
Paris. 6, rue le Peletier. "3e exposition de peinture [3rd Impressionist exhibition]," April 1877, no. 41 (as "Danseuses à la barre").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 57 (as "Dancers Practising [sic] at the Bar [sic]") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 103, as "Dancers at the Bar (sic)"].
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 83).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 376.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas in the Metropolitan," February 26–September 4, 1977, no. 15 (of paintings).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 165.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A216.
"Exposition des impressionnistes: 6, rue Le Peletier; 6." La Petite république française (April 10, 1877), p. 2 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, pp. 175–76].
Paul Mantz. "L'Exposition des peintres impressionnistes." Le Temps (April 22, 1877), p. 3.
Charles Bigot. "Causerie artistique: L'Exposition des "impressionnistes"." La Revue politique et littéraire 44 (April 28, 1877), p. 1047 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, p. 135].
G. Rivière. "Les Intransigeants et les impressionnistes: Souvenirs du salon libre de 1877." L'Artiste 2 (November 1, 1877), pp. 298–302 [reprinted in Ref. Berson 1996, vol. 1, pp. 186–87].
George Moore. "Degas: The Painter of Modern Life." Magazine of Art 13 (October 1890), p. 423, considers it perhaps the finest of Degas's ballet pictures.
Arsène Alexandre. "La collection de M. Henri Rouart." Les Arts 1 (June 1902), p. 10, ill. p. 5, states that Rouart prevented Degas from retrieving this picture for revisions.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Modern Art, Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics. London, 1908, vol. 1, p. 281, dates it 1878.
Gustave Geffroy. "Degas." L'Art et les artistes 7 (April–September 1908), ill. p. 21, erroneously calls it a pastel.
Georges Durand-Ruel. Letter (probably to Mrs. Havemeyer). December 24, 1912, relates Degas's comments regarding the medium and care of this painting.
P.-A Lemoisne. Degas. Paris, 1912, pp. 71–72, pl. XXVIII, dates it 1877; incorrectly identifies the medium as tempera; states that two versions exist, one in the Rouart collection and a replica with variations in the Havemeyer collection [the latter probably refers to L460, then in the Havemeyer collection, now private collection; see Refs. Havemeyer 1961 and 1993].
R. R. M. See. "Rouart Sale Echoes." American Art News 11 (December 28, 1912), p. 5, reports various unconfirmed rumors regarding the Rouart sale, including that Durand-Ruel "received an unlimited commission from an American woman collector" to bid on this painting and that the buyer was Mrs. Sears of Boston.
R[oyal?]. C[ortissoz?]. "Modern Pictures at the Sale of the Rouart Collection." New York Tribune (December 15, 1912), p. 27, ill.
Charles Louis Borgmeyer. The Master Impressionists. Chicago, 1913, pp. 85, 87–88, 219, ill. p. 83, notes that the price paid for this picture at the Rouart sale set a record high for a work by a living artist.
Mary Cassatt. Letter to Durand-Ruel. March 11, 1913 [published in Lionello Venturi, ed., "Les Archives de l'impressionnisme," Paris, 1939, vol. 2, pp. 131–32].
R[obert]. E. D[ell]. "Art in France." Burlington Magazine 22 (January 1913), p. 240, repeats the rumor that it was purchased by Mrs. Sears.
Mary Cassatt. Letter to Durand-Ruel. February 12, 1914 [published in Lionello Venturi, ed., "Les Archives de l'impressionnisme," Paris, 1939, vol. 2, p. 133].
Armand Dayot. "L'Atelier de Degas." L'Illustration 76 (March 16, 1918), pp. 256–59 [Engl. translation published in Ref. Rabinow 1997, p. 310].
Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 1, Paris, 1918, p. 150, ill. opp. p. 150, relates Degas's reaction to the high price brought by this picture at the Rouart sale.
George Moore. "Memories of Degas (conclusion)." Burlington Magazine 32 (February 1918), p. 64.
Jacques-Émile Blanche. De David à Degas. Paris, 1919, p. 305.
Paul Lafond. Degas. Vol. 2, Paris, 1919, p. 27, repeats Lemoisne's [Ref. 1912] assertion that there are two versions of this picture.
Henri Hertz. Degas. Paris, 1920, pp. 99, 108.
François Fosca. Les Albums d'art Druet. Vol. 6, Degas, 24 phototypies. Paris, , pl. 2.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55.
"The H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Parnassus 2 (March 1930), p. 6.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 120–21, ill.
Louise Burroughs. "Degas in the Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (May 1932), p. 144.
Georges Grappe. Degas. Paris, 1936, pp. 60–61, ill.
Paul Poujaud. Letter to Marcel Guérin. July 11, 1936 [Engl. transl. published in Marcel Guérin, ed., "Degas Letters," Oxford, 1947, p. 236], relates that Degas gave this picture to Rouart in exchange for one which the artist had retouched and spoiled, leading Rouart to keep this one padlocked [see Ref. Alexandre 1902].
Camille Mauclair. Degas. London, , p. 167, pl. 149, as "Dancing-Girls Practising at the Bar".
Agnes Mongan. "Degas as Seen in American Collections." Burlington Magazine 72 (June 1938), p. 301.
Hans Graber. Edgar Degas: Nach Eigenen und Fremden Zeugnissen. 2nd, augmented. Basel, 1942, pp. 179, 217, ill. opp. p. 140 [Engl. translation published in Ref. Valéry 1960], publishes Ernest Rouart's account of his father's acquisition of this picture; Rouart confirms that Degas wished to paint over the watering can but dismisses the story that the painting was kept chained to the wall.
E. Tietze-Conrat. "What Degas Learned from Mantegna." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 26 (July–December 1944), p. 417, fig. 4.
Marguerite Rebatet. Degas. Paris, 1944, pl. 91.
Denis Rouart. Degas à la recherche de sa technique. Paris, 1945, pp. 10, 70 n. 13, ill. p. 11 [English ed., 1988, p. 20, ill. p. 21 (color)].
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 1, pp. 93, 200, 239 n. 118; vol. 2, p. 224, no. 408, ill. p. 225, dates it about 1876–77; suggests comparison with a drawing in the collection of Mme Jacques Doucet and catalogues a study (L409; now British Museum, London); states in vol. 1 that the Museum's painting was "without a doubt" the picture shown as no. 41 in the third Impressionist exhibition, yet in vol. 2 identifies a picture of a single dancer (no. 421) as the one probably in the exhibition; quotes Degas's reaction to the high price for the painting at the Rouart sale: "Je suis comme le cheval qui gagne le grand prix et qui n'a que son avoine".
Lillian Browse. Degas Dancers. New York, , pp. 32, 38, 353, pl. 46, alternately calls it "Danseuses à la Barre" and "Deux Danseuses à la Barre"; dates it 1876–77; erroneously asserts that the medium is tempera.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "Degas: From Classicist to Modern." Art News 48 (April 1949), p. 21, finds the cool colors reminiscent of Velázquez's "Las Meninas".
Daniel Catton Rich. Edgar-Hilaire-Germain Degas. New York, 1951, pp. 30, 74.
Douglas Cooper. Pastels by Edgar Degas. New York, [1952?], p. 16, under no. 4.
Robert Rey. Degas. Paris, 1952, pp. xxiv–xxv, pl. 32.
Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, , pp. 35, 108, under no. 36, p. 112, no. 63, pl. 63 [English ed., 1958, pp. 35, 108 under no. 36, p. 113, no. 63, pl. 63], refers to it alternately as "Dancer at the Exercise Bar," "Dancers at the Exercising Bar," and "Danseuses à la Barre"; dates it about 1876–77.
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), ill. p. 96.
François Fosca. Corot, sa vie et son oeuvre. Brussels, 1958, p. 176, mentions it among paintings by Degas that show the influence of Corot.
Alfred Frankfurter. "Midas on Parnassus." Art News Annual 28 (1959), ill. p. 38.
Paul Valéry. Degas, Manet, Morisot. New York, 1960, p. 92.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 252–53, 257, refers to two versions of this subject, saying "M. Henri Rouart bought the large "Danseuses" and Mr. Havemeyer bought the other" [Mrs. Havemeyer eventually acquired the Rouart picture; the second work to which she refers is L460 (now private collection); see Ref. Havemeyer 1993].
Alfred Frankfurter. "Picasso and His Public." Horizon 4 (November 1961), p. 6, translates Degas's reaction to the price paid for the painting at the Rouart sale as "I feel exactly like the horse that has just won the Grand Prix and sees the cup being handed to the jockey" [see Ref. Lemoisne 1946–49].
Jean Sutherland Boggs. "Danseuses à la barre by Degas." National Gallery of Canada Bulletin 3 (1964), pp. 2–3, fig. 2.
Daniel Halévy. My Friend Degas. Middletown, Conn., 1964, pp. 108, 111–12 [French ed., 1960, repr. 1995, pp. 187, 191–92].
Denys Sutton. "The Discerning Eye of Louisine Havemeyer." Apollo 82 (September 1965), fig. 4.
Jean Bouret. Degas. New York, 1965, p. 259, ill. p. 256 (color).
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 78–81, ill.
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill.
Alfred Werner. Degas Pastels. New York, 1968, p. 13.
John Rowlands. "Treasures of a Connoisseur: The César de Hauke Bequest." Apollo 88 (July 1968), pp. 46–47, discusses the oil study for this picture (British Museum; L409).
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, p. 110, no. 497, ill. and colorpl. 39.
François Duret-Robert Preface by René Huyghe inL'Impressionnisme. [Paris], 1971, p. 305.
Theodore Reff. "The Technical Aspects of Degas's Art." Metropolitan Museum Journal 4 (1971), p. 146, fig. 7 (detail), describes the technique of "peinture à l'essence".
Richard J. Wattenmaker. Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, 1975, p. 28 n. 2.
Theodore Reff. Degas, The Artist's Mind. [New York], 1976, pp. 277–78, 300, 337 n. 25, fig. 190 (detail), as "Dancers at the Bar".
Charles S. Moffett and Elizabeth Streicher. "Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer as Collectors of Degas." Nineteenth Century 3 (Spring 1977), p. 25, fig. 4.
Charles S. Moffett. Degas: Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1979, pp. 11–12, colorpl. 21, dates it 1876–77.
Ian Dunlop. Degas. New York, 1979, pp. 124, 223.
Eugénie de Keyser. Degas: Réalité et métaphore. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1981, pp. 61, 66.
Roy McMullen. Degas: His Life, Times, and Work. Boston, 1984, pp. 305–7, 360, 364, 464, ill., compares the composition to that of "Laundresses Carrying Linen" (New York, private collection).
Suzanne Folds McCullagh inDegas in The Art Institute of Chicago. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1984, p. 91, fig. 39-1.
Charles F. Stuckey inDegas: Form and Space. Ed. Maurice Guillaud. Exh. cat., Centre Culturel du Marais. Paris, 1984, pp. 56, 58, 60 n. 86, ill. p. 163 (color detail) and fig. 142 (color).
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 74–75, 250, ill. (color).
Götz Adriani. Degas: Pastels, Oil Sketches, Drawings. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. New York, 1985, p. 109 n. 184, p. 113 n. 287, p. 364, under nos. 102 and 103, discusses and illustrates studies for this picture.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 208–9, 255, colorpl. 147, describes the events surrounding Mrs. Havemeyer's purchase of this picture through Durand-Ruel at the Rouart sale in 1912, and notes that it was the costliest picture in the Havemeyer collection.
Eunice Lipton. Looking into Degas: Uneasy Images of Women and Modern Life. Berkeley, 1986, p. 208 n. 29.
Denys Sutton. Edgar Degas: Life and Work. New York, 1986, p. 178, colorpl. 157, dates it about 1876–77.
Richard R. Brettell inThe New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. Ed. Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington. San Francisco, 1986, pp. 204, 217, no. 46, ill. (color), conjectures that either this picture or Lemoisne no. 421 (present location unknown) was included in the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877.
Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, p. 23, colorpl. 8, dates it 1876–77.
Richard Thomson. The Private Degas. Exh. cat., Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. London, 1987, p. 48, fig. 61, as "Two Dancers at the Bar"; dates it about 1876–77.
Horst Keller. Edgar Degas. Munich, 1988, pp. 102, 175, colorpl. 94.
Michael Pantazzi inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 249, 276–78, 472, no. 165, ill. (color), dates it 1876–77; discusses this composition in relation to the studies in the British Museum (L409), Musée d'Orsay, Paris, and the Acquavella collection, New York; calls it "one of the most happily phrased observations on the nature of rhythm, not only as the preeminent property of dance but also as a pervasive quality in nature"; confirms its inclusion in the Impressionist exhibition of 1877.
Richard Thomson. "The Degas Exhibition at the Grand Palais." Burlington Magazine 130 (April 1988), p. 296.
Jean Sutherland Boggs inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, pp. 23, 32 n. 13.
Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge. Degas. New York, 1988, ill. p. 161 (color).
John Rewald with the research assistance of Frances Weitzenhoffer. Cézanne and America: Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics, 1891–1921. The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Princeton, 1989, pp. 164–65, 176 n. 23.
Gary Tinterow and Anne Norton. "Degas aux expositions impressionnistes." Degas inédit: Actes du Colloque Degas. Paris, 1989, p. 307, identify it as no. 41 in the 3rd Impressionist exhibition.
Richard Thomson. "The Degas Exhibition in Ottawa and New York." Burlington Magazine 131 (April 1989), p. 293.
Shelley Fletcher and Pia Desantis. "Degas: The Search for His Technique Continues." Burlington Magazine 131 (April 1989), pp. 260–63, figs. 9–11 (color, overall and details), note that it was a part of a transitional phase when Degas was "struggling with technical solutions for abstract ideas"; discuss the picture's experimental mixed media.
Anne Distel. Impressionism: The First Collectors. New York, 1990, pp. 185, 187, 239, 242, colorpl. 164.
Colin B. Bailey inMasterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel, and Mark Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, p. 14.
Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, pp. 38, 56, 184–85, 250 n. 22, fig. 13, dates it 1876–77.
Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne Maheux. Degas Pastels. New York, 1992, p. 181.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 252–53, 257, 289, 302, 337 nn. 372, 376, p. 338 n. 379, p. 344 n. 456.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 260, fig. 106 (installation photograph from Exh. New York 1930).
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 36, 49, colorpl. 40, dates it 1876–77.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 330, no. A216, ill. p. 329.
Mari Kálmán Meller. "Exercises in and around Degas's Classrooms: Part III." Burlington Magazine 135 (July 1993), p. 452, fig. 2, calls it "Two Dancers at the Barre" and dates it about 1876–77.
Jean Sutherland Boggs inDegas Portraits. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich. London, 1994, pp. 72, 97.
Five Impressionist Works of Art: Property of the Shelburne Museum. Sotheby's, New York. November 12, 1996, unpaginated, fig. 2 under no. 11.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 118, 135, 167, 176, 186–87; vol. 2, p. 72, no. III-41, ill. p. 90.
Ann Dumas inThe Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, pp. 56, 72 n. 249, p. 126, remarks that the combination of different views of a single figure in this picture reflects the influence of Gauguin.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inThe Private Collection of Edgar Degas. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, pp. 310, 334 n. 9, fig. 396, dates it 1876–77.
Gary Tinterow inLa collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 63–64, 108, fig. 27, dates it 1876–77.
Azar Nafisi. "The Veiled Threat: The Iranian theocracy's fear of females." New Republic (February 22, 1999), p. 24, ill. p. 25, illustrates how the painting is reproduced in an Iranian art book where, because of censorship, the figures have been airbrushed out.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inDegas and America: The Early Collectors. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2000, p. 41, fig. 11 (color).
Esmée Quodbach. "'The Last of the American Versailles': The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002), pp. 60, 92, fig. 15.
Jill DeVonyar and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Dance. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 2002, pp. 107, 139, 283 n. 52, p. 284 n. 72.
Ross King. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism. New York, 2006, p. 372.
Michael Pantazzi in Jane Kinsman. Degas: The Uncontested Master. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2008, p. 257.
Colin B. Bailey inMasterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 28.
Richard Kendall and Jill DeVonyar. Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2011, pp. 51, 260 n. 54, fig. 16 (color).
Ann Hoenigswald and Kimberly A. Jones in Kimberly A. Jones. Degas/Cassatt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2014, pp. 120, 147 n. 23, discuss the varying identifications of the picture's mixed media, the difficulty of identifying them, and the artist's unreliability in his own narratives on the subject.
Erica E. Hirshler and Elliot Bostwick Davis in Kimberly A. Jones. Degas/Cassatt. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2014, pp. 132–33, fig. 4 (color), discuss the sale of the picture to Havemeyer.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 442, 447, no. 375, ill. pp. 381, 442 (color).
There is a pastel depicting the dancer on the right (L421, present location unknown), as well as three studies: one in oil on paper of both dancers (L409, British Museum, London), one in pencil of the dancer on the left (Mr. and Mrs. William R. Acquavella, New York), and one in charcoal of the dancer on the right (Cabinet des Dessins, Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
A lithograph after this picture was included in George William Thornley's album of fifteen lithographs after Degas, published by Boussod & Valadon in 1889.