Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Primary Title)
Little Dancer (Former Title)

Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917 (Artist)

model executed ca. 1880; cast in 1922
Bronze, textile (silk and cotton, modern)
Overall: 38 1/2 × 14 1/2 × 14 1/4 in. (97.79 × 36.83 × 36.2 cm)
Other (base): 2 1/4 × 19 1/2 × 19 3/4 in. (5.72 × 49.53 × 32.39 cm)

This bronze cast of Degas’s wax sculpture The Little Dancer is one of the twenty-five copies authorized by the artist's heirs after his death. The original model’s glaring deviations from the classical ideals of traditional sculpture upset critics and members of the public alike when it was shown at the Impressionist Exhibition of 1881.


Ballet dancers rehearsing and performing constitutes the theme of some 1,500 of Degas’s works—about half of his oeuvre. The subject allowed the artist to experiment his technical skills, and the glamor and sexual intrigue surrounding the world of the Paris Opéra appealed to buyers. Before modeling his wax sculpture, the artist made multiple nude studies of fourteen-year-old Marie van Goethem, a Belgian-born ballet pupil. She is frozen in an awkward pose, with her chin raised and chest thrust out in a gesture that might appear defiant if not for the vulnerability of her young age. Degas’s unflinching regard for his subject’s precocious self-display mimics the casual lasciviousness and exploitative behavior that many of the opera’s male patrons engaged in. As such, the composition is a forthright document of the true conditions of life backstage for these young dancers.

Stamps on back right corner of base: "Cire perdue A. A. Hebrard" and "HER-D"; "Cire perdue A. A. Hebrard" stamped on proper left thigh, and "HER-D" inscribed underneath
State Operating Fund and the Art Lovers' Society
2019-2020: "Van Gogh Monet Degas, The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", Palazzo Zabarella, Padua, Italy, October 26, 2019 - March 1, 2020

2019-2021: Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN, February 2 - May 5, 2019; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS, April 4, 2020 - January 10, 2021

2018-2019: "Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", The Frick Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, March 17 - July 15, 2018; Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 22 - September 22, 2019

[Loan to permanent collection] New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, September 29 – March 13, 2015

Degas: Form, Movement, and the Antique, Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL, March 12 – June 19, 2011

The Dancer: Degas, Forain, and Toulouse-Lautrec, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, February 2 – May 11, 2008

L'Impressionisme vu d' Amérique, Musée de Grenoble, October 9, 2007 – January 20, 2008

[Loan to permanent collection] Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN, August 18, 2004 – January 2, 2005

Degas and America: The Early Collectors, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 16 – September 9, 2001

Degas: The Dancers, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., November 22, 1984 – March 10, 1985

Degas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., May 22 – July 9, 1978

Miller & Rhoads, Richmond, Va, April 21, 1967

Tampa Art Institute, Tampa, FL, October 1965

Mississippi Art Association Fund Raising, Jackson, MS, August 1965

Impressionism, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, April 3 – May 8, 1960

Sculpture by Degas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., March 15 – April 29, 1956

Canton Art Institute, Canton, OH, March 15 – April 29, 1955

Memorial Exhibition to Curt Valetin, Curt Valetin Gallery, Inc., New York, NY, October 5 – 30, 1954

Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, May – June, 1951

Carrousel Exhibition, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, November 16 – December 8, 1950

Masterpieces of Sculpture, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, 1949

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Roanoke, Roanoke, Va., January 4 – 11, 1948

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, February 5 - March 9, 1947
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Curator’s Talk: The Reinstallation of the Mellon Collection

The collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts given by Paul and Rachel Mellon constitute an essential facet of the museum’s identity. Dr. Sylvain Cordier, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, discusses the reinstallation of the Mellon Collection.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.