Julie Burtey (Primary Title)

Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917 (Artist)

ca. 1867
oil on canvas
Unframed: 28 3/4 × 23 1/2 in. (73.03 × 59.69 cm)
Framed: 39 × 34 in. (99.06 × 86.36 cm)
As a young man, Degas had traveled in Italy and enthusiastically copied the masterpieces in the country's museums and churches. The full-length format and the position of the sitter in this work show the explicit influence of Renaissance madonnas and courtly subjects. The form of the chair's backrest reveals the artist's specific reference to Raphael's Madonna della Seggiola from 1514 (Palazzo Pitti, Florence). There is frequently a tension in Degas's work between careful draftsmanship and crude applications of color to render bold shapes and suggestive figuration. He uses his subject's voluminous dress as a pretext to fill his canvas with a massive, almost featureless black pyramid that focuses the viewer's attention on the delicately detailed features of her face. The background is also only sparsely rendered, accomplishing only what is necessary to fulfill the requirements of a completed portrait. The woman represented here is Degas's neighbor Julie Burtey, who was a Parisian dressmaker. Degas seems to amuse himself by using the prestigious genres of aristocratic and saintly portraiture for the image of a humble woman. At the same time, his dedicated efforts to render her likeness accords it a dignity that Degas denied to many of his female subjects.
Estate stamp lower right: "Degas".
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
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

“Degas—The Portraits,” Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland, De. 2, 1994-March 5, 1995; Kunsthalle Tubingen, Germany, March 18-June 18, 1995

“Twelve Portraits,” Artmobile exhibition, Sept. 22-Oct. 16, 1962

“Delacroix to Gauguin: Ten Portraits,” VMFA, May 4-August 19, 1962

“French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce,” National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, March 17-May 1, 1966

“A Collectors’ Exhibition,” New York, Feb. 6-25, 1950
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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