NEW ORLEANS -- A statue of artist Edgar Degas' "Little Dancer" was unveiled this week at Degas House on Esplanade this week to mark the hundredth anniversary of the painter and sculptor's death.
Degas only lived in New Orleans for two years, but while he was here, he completed 18 paintings, four drawings and five letters revealing his love for New Orleans. His mother was also born here.
The Paris-born artist began sculpting the "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" in 1880. It was two-thirds life-sized and originally created in wax. According to the National Gallery of Art, it was a particularly "reviled" piece when it debuted:
Degas’ uncannily realistic depiction of an “opera rat,” as young dancers with the Paris Opera ballet were known, was a deeply unsettling challenge both to academic tradition and to French bourgeois society. It forced viewers to confront the seamy side of the ballet, the cultural institution at the center of metropolitan life. The rats, including the model for this figure, mostly came from working-class families and were popularly understood to be vulnerable to moral corruption at the hands of well-off suitors. Degas visualized this potential link with vice by flattening the model’s facial features, exaggerating the low forehead, and making the jaw protrude, adjustments that conformed to popular scientific notions that linked physiognomy and degeneracy.
The Degas House in New Orleans is a museum that pays homage to the home where Degas lived while he resided in New Orleans. It's located at 2306 Esplanade Avenue. Click here for more information.