Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
Bronze, number 39/A
12 1/4 x 9 3/8 x 5 9/16 in. (31.1 x 23.8 x 14 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.411)
Formerly called Dancer Rubbing Her Knee, this figure has been identified with Harlequin in a pastel dated 1885 now in the Art Institute of Chicago. The pastel is part of a series of seven depicting scenes from the ballet Les Jumeaux de Bergame, probably the production that had its first performance at the Paris Opéra on January 26, 1886. Degas is known to have attended rehearsals for it in July of 1885. The figure in the pastel wears Harlequin's domino costume and carries a baton or slapstick in her right hand with which she has presumably just felled another character in the ballet. In the sculpture, Degas has presented Harlequin nude, abandoning any attempt at narrative context and concentrating on the figure in motion.