The Little Dancer

  • Artists:

    • Edgar Degas
  • Creation date: ca. 1878-1880; Støpt mellom 1919 og 1937
  • Object type: Statuette


Fascinated by the movement of human bodies, Edgar Degas experimented with a variety of themes and materials and frequented different milieus. During one particular period he was inspired by the Parisian café and theatre scenes, and he spent many hours in the 1870s at the Paris Opera and its school of ballet, where he studied the movements of the young ballerinas so that he could later on convey his impressions through his art.

This is also where he found the young student Marie van Goethem, the subject of this sculpture.Degas used a number of sketches and studies of Marie in a variety of classical dance positions to create a nearly life-size wax sculpture, which was then fitted out with a dress, ballet shoes, and a horsehair wig with a ribbon. Degas displayed this sculpture at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1881, to very mixed reviews. Several of the critics felt that such an irregular combination of materials was not appropriate for high art, and slighted moreover the model for her perceived unattractiveness. Degas left behind several such studies in wax, which were subsequently cast in bronze after his death. It is one of these bronze sculptures that is now in the National Museum’s possession.

This study of the young Marie is relatively small. She herself is slender and long-legged; she poses with her feet turned outward, head lifted up, and hands resting behind her back, as though she is stretching out her arms and shoulders in an informal posture. Her left hip protrudes a bit, giving her body a slight S curve. Her body is awkward, frail, and incomplete. She has an aura of vulnerability, but her pose also exudes a sense of pride.

Text: Marianne Yvenes

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


  • Edgar Degas


    Born 1834 in Paris, Frankrike, death 1917 in Paris, Frankrike

Work info

Creation date:
ca. 1878-1880; Støpt mellom 1919 og 1937
Other titles:
Liten danserinne (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
  • Height: 67.3 cm
  • Width: 34 cm
  • Depth: 30 cm
  • Weight: 16 kg
Motif - type:
Acquired 1949
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Annar Bjørgli/Lathion, Jacques