“Longing” | Anthony Satori

Edgar Degas was a French painter from the Impressionist Period of the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was known for his delicate, dream-like paintings of ballet dancers and, later in his career, for his highly sympathetic images of women in domestic roles. During his lifetime, Degas’ paintings were very well-regarded, and he achieved both critical acclaim and financial success. Through the century following his passing, his stature as a great artist only increased with time. What many people don’t realize, however, is that, in addition to being an accomplished painter, Degas also made sculptures; or, rather, he wanted to make sculptures.

Degas, in fact, exhibited only one sculpture in his entire career: The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (1881). It was a 1/3 life-size wax figure of a young girl striking a balletic pose, gazing upward with an enigmatic look on her face. She is wearing ballet shoes, a corset, and a skirt, with a white bow draped down her back. Upon its exhibition, it was so badly received by the public and by the critics, both for its “realism” and for its use of “unconventional” materials – including fabric-weaved tulle for the skirt, real human hair for the wig, and wax-coated ballet slippers on the feet – he took the piece down, brought it back to his studio, and never exhibited the artwork again. He was never to exhibit this sculpture – or any other sculptural work – for the remainder of his life. While he would continue over the next four decades to sculpt numerous figures in wax and clay in his studio – beautiful, graceful figures, mostly of women and horses – he never exhibited them publicly, and never cast even a single one of them in bronze.

Thankfully, after Degas passed away, his heirs discovered over 150 wax, clay, and plastiline sculptures in his studio, many of them still intact, and, within a couple of years, they enlisted Degas’ close friend and sculptor Albert Bartholomé to prepare over 70 of the best-preserved pieces for limited-edition bronze castings. Thus, the world was presented posthumously with an almost entirely never-before-seen body of sculptural artwork from an already world-famous painter, and the works have been shown and enjoyed throughout the world in museum collections ever since.

How poignant, to think that even an artist of such fame and renown as Edgar Degas could have been stung so badly by a single bad reception of a solitary piece of work that he never exhibited another sculpture in his lifetime. The world was almost kept from experiencing a complete “second” body of work from a quite wonderful artist, merely due to the callousness of a handful of critics. Thankfully, he had the pure desire and self-motivation to continue to create sculptural works for his own pleasure and edification, and, as a result, we have them to enjoy and appreciate today.

If you are curious to see what the infamous Little Dancer looks like, I have included my own photograph of it below. In terms of Degas’ sculptural career, this is the artwork that started (and almost ended) it all.


“Degas’ Little Dancer of Fourteen Years” | Anthony Satori

The Face of the Waters

“Oceanic” | Anthony Satori

“In the beginning… the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. And then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

– Genesis 1:2-4