This study for an oil painting by Degas of 1878–79 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) depicts the financier and collector Ernest May (1845–1925) under the portico of the Paris stock exchange. At the time, May was in his early thirties and just beginning to expand his acquisitions from old master and eighteenth-century pictures to works by Degas, Manet, and their colleagues.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Degas
the sitter, Ernest May, Paris (bought from the artist; until d. 1925); his son, Jacques-Ernest May, Paris (1925–at least 1946); [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York]; Norton Simon, Pasadena (until 1971; his sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, May 5, 1971, no. 36, for $185,000 to Levin); Philip and Janice H. Levin, New York (his d. 1971); Janice H. Levin, New York (1971–d. 2001)
Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Degas: portraitiste, sculpteur," July 19–October 1, 1931, no. 128 (as "A la Bourse," lent by M. Jacques May).
New York. Acquavella Galleries. "Edgar Degas," November 1–December 3, 1978, no. 13 (as "A la Bourse").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Degas," September 27, 1988–January 8, 1989, not in catalogue (under no. 203).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Very Private Collection: Janice H. Levin's Impressionist Pictures," November 19, 2002–February 9, 2003, no. 8.
Jacques-Ernest May. Letter to Paul Jamot. 1931 [Archives des Musées Nationaux, Paris; cited in Ref. Loyrette 1991], requests that the organizers of the 1931 Degas exhibition in Paris title this work "A la Bourse" in the catalogue, because his father, the model, had never wanted it to be considered a portrait.
Degas: Portraitiste, Sculpteur. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1931, p. 96, no. 128, dates it about 1879 and calls it a study for the Orsay picture [see Notes].
P[aul]. A[ndré]. Lemoisne. Degas et son œuvre. [reprint 1984]. Paris, [1946–49], vol. 2, pp. 212–13, 276, no. 392, ill., calls it "A la Bourse" and dates it 1876; identifies the central figures as Ernest May and M. Bolâtre; mistakenly states that it was included in the 2nd Impressionist exhibition of 1876 [see Ref. Pantazzi 1988].
Pierre Cabanne. Edgar Degas. Paris, , p. 113, under no. 72 [English ed., 1958, p. 114, under no. 72], calls it an earlier version of the Orsay picture (L499).
Jean Sutherland Boggs. Portraits by Degas. Berkeley, 1962, pp. 110, 123, suggests that Degas may have been influenced by the Daumier lithograph "Robert Macaire Boursier" when painting the Orsay version of this picture.
Fiorella Minervino inL'opera completa di Degas. Milan, 1970, pp. 105, 108, no. 398, ill., dates it 1876.
Ronald Pickvance. Degas 1879. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1979, p. 52, under no. 49.
Denys Sutton. Edgar Degas: Life and Work. New York, 1986, p. 216.
Michael Pantazzi inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 317, states that it was made shortly before the Orsay version and dates both works 1878–79; proves that Lemoisne [Ref. 1946] was mistaken about its inclusion in the 2nd Impressionist exhibition of 1876 [see also Ref. Berson 1996]; comments that the strips of paper added to the top and bottom of the picture suggest that Degas first intended a horizontal format.
Henri Loyrette. Degas. Paris, 1991, p. 418, quotes from an unpublished letter from May's son to Paul Jamot regarding the title of this work [see Ref. May 1931].
Carol Armstrong. Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago, 1991, p. 28, suggests that the theme of this picture is related to Degas's father's profession as a banker and the family's bankruptcy; elsewhere [p. 36] describes Ernest May as a combination of market representative, father figure, and art patron.
Gary Tinterow in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1991–1992." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Fall 1992), p. 45, ill. (color), dates it about 1878–79.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 2, p. 34, under no. II-38.
Richard Shone. The Janice H. Levin Collection of French Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, pp. 6, 9, 34–38, no. 8, ill. (color, overall and detail), calls it "À la Bourse (Portraits in the Stock Exchange) and dates it about 1878–79.
Grace Glueck. "Quiet Private Collection Yields Famous Names." New York Times (November 22, 2002), p. E32, ill.
Neil Folberg in Lin Arison and Neil Folberg. Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections. New York, 2007, p. 256.
This is a study for the larger, more finished oil painting in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (L499). The central figure is Ernest May (1845–1925), a successful banker and art collector. Lemoisne (1946) identifies the man looking over May's shoulder as M. Bolâtre.