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Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opéra

Dancers in the Rotunda at the Paris Opéra, c. 1875-1878 and c. 1894

Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917
Oil on canvas
34-7/8 x 37-3/4 in. (88.6 x 95.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

This view of the main rehearsal studio at the Paris opera house (known as the Palais Garnier) demonstrates Degas’s tendency to revisit and reimagine pictures, sometimes many years after he first painted them. He began work on this canvas around 1875, when the Palais Garnier had just opened. X-rays suggest that the original composition included a spiral staircase at left and a different pose for the dancer at right, but the most dramatic alterations Degas made when he returned to the painting nearly twenty years later have to do with the texture of its surface and the use of color. Thin, overlapping veils of pigment—often applied with fingertips, rather than a brush—create a dreamy, opalescent effect far removed from the crisp naturalism of Degas’s early career.

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