Paule Gobillard, Jeannie Gobillard, Julie Manet, and Geneviève Mallarmé
Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
Gelatin silver print
28.4 x 38.9 cm (11 3/16 x 15 5/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2000
Not on view
After having made the majority of his paintings and experimenting with pastel and monotype, Degas briefly turned to photography in late 1895. "Ablaze with enthusiasm," he enlisted his friends as models and appropriated their living rooms as his after-dinner photographic studio. Both the activity itself and the resulting images bound Degas to his circle of close friends and brought comfort in the evening hours when he otherwise dwelled on his own mortality and the death and dispersal of his family.
One December evening, in the company of Auguste Renoir and Stéphane Mallarmé, Degas photographed Mallarmé's daughter Geneviève and "the little Manet girls"- Julie Manet (the seventeen-year-old daughter of Berthe Morisot and Édouard Manet's brother Eugène) and her cousins Paule and Jeannie Gobillard-all three orphans whom the elder artists had taken under their wing. Sitting before Degas, whose camera is reflected in the mirror, the young women are joined to one another by the continuous blackness of their dresses, a backdrop for the gentle rhythm of their hands.