The bourgeois woman at Degas

The bourgeois woman at Degas

  • Thérèse Degas.

    DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

  • Madame Jeantaud in front of a mirror.

    DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

  • The Woman with the Vase.

    DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

  • Mademoiselle Dihau at the piano.

    DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

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Title: Thérèse Degas.

Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

Creation date : 1863

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 89 - Width 67

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 93DE6044 / RE 2650

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Madame Jeantaud in front of a mirror.

Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

Creation date : 1875

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 70 - Width 84

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 99DE5000 / RF 1970-38

Madame Jeantaud in front of a mirror.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: The Woman with the Vase.

Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

Creation date : 1872

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 65 - Width 54

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 95DE24198 / RF 1983

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Mademoiselle Dihau at the piano.

Author : DEGAS Edgar (1834 - 1917)

Creation date : 1869

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 45 - Width 32.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 99DE4994 / RE 2416

Mademoiselle Dihau at the piano.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: June 2015

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The bourgeois woman at Degas

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Historical context

In the middle of the XIXe century, the bourgeoisie made a major contribution to the triumph of the individual, the family and private life. Trapped in an extreme codification of her daily life, the bourgeois woman is constantly in representation, especially under the gaze of painters.

Image Analysis

In his ambition to make portraits of women taken in their familiar and typical attitudes, Degas draws his models par excellence from his family and close friends.

Thus, for the portrait of Therese Degas, the painter had one of his younger sisters pose shortly before her wedding. Wearing a white condom tied with a large pink ribbon and wearing a gray crinoline covered with a black lace shawl, the young woman shows, timidly but seriously, the left hand that wears the engagement ring. Behind her, a window that opens onto the Bay of Naples, her fiancé's home, recalls her future life as a married woman, for which she had prepared herself.

Equally dressed, Mme Jeantaud, the wife of a friend of the painter, checks her appearance in a mirror cabinet before going out. By playing on the complementarity of the model and her reflection in the mirror, Degas describes in great detail the outfit of the elegant - the prominent hat, the cape with protruding fasteners which reveals the dress and especially the bow tie that keeps the collar, the fur muff placed on his knees, and even the pearls on his ears -, and highlights the variety of materials and the harmony of colors.

The model of the Woman with a vase poses at home, wearing a beige and gold house dress. Next to her, a table where her jewelry and gloves are placed, and on which sits a multicolored vase containing a superb bouquet of purple flowers with large exotic leaves.

For the portrait of one of her friends, Miss Dihau at the piano, Degas, passionate about music, chooses to represent it in front of his instrument. The young pianist, very coquettishly dressed in a hat with flowers and feathers, seems to interrupt her piece to turn, proudly, towards the spectator.

The way Degas captures moments in the life of these four women is borrowed from photography. Fascinated by this new mode of representation of reality, the painter seeks to escape in each of these portraits from the traditional arrangement of the figure on the background by the multiplication of points of view - by exploiting for example the reflection of a mirror -, or by resorting to unexpected angles - as in the Woman with a vase where the figure is started by the decoration.

Interpretation

Through these four portraits of women, Degas takes an objective look more broadly at the bourgeois woman of her time. Beyond the physical resemblance, to their advantage but without flattery, the painter perfectly transcribes the issues and conventions of their daily life, through their clothes - reflections of fashion at that time and especially attributes of appearance -, their occupations - often unproductive but always symbolic like playing an instrument - and their interior - revealing their duties and qualities as housewives. Very attentive to his fellows, Degas appears as the privileged witness of the condition of women, spearhead of the ambitions of the bourgeoisie, in the second half of the 19th century.e century.

  • bourgeoisie
  • women
  • impressionism
  • private life
  • family
  • Degas (Edgar)

Bibliography

Philippe ARIES and Georges DUBY History of private life, 3: From the Revolution to the Great War Threshold, 1987. Jean-Paul ARON Miserable and glorious, women in the nineteenth century Fayard, 1980 Christophe CHARLE Social history of France in the 19th century Threshold, 1991.Adelie DAUMARD The Bourgeois and the Bourgeoisie in France Aubier, 1987. Georges DUBY and Michèle PERROT (dir.) History of women, the 19th century Plon, 1991.I. DUNLOP Degas Neuchâtel, Ides et Calendes, 1979.G. FORGE Degas Flammarion, 1988.Henri LOYRETTE Degas Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Discoveries", 1988.D. SUTTON Degas Nathan, 1986 Collective, Exhibition catalog: Degas e’Italia Villa Médicis, 1984 Collective, Exhibition catalog: Degas Grand Palais, 1988.

To cite this article

Fleur SIOUFFI, "The bourgeois woman at Degas"

Glossary

  • Impressionism: An artistic movement bringing together all the independent artists who exhibited collectively between 1874 and 1886. The term was used by a critic to deride Monet's painting Impression Soleil Levant (1872). The Impressionists favor subjects drawn from modern life and open-air painting.

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