Height: 280.000 mm
Width: 224.000 mm
Bequeathed by César Mange de Hauke
Prints and Drawings
Edgar Degas, Woman with Field Glasses, a drawing in thinned oil paint
France, AD 1865
The observer observed
This is a study for a figure that appeared in Degas' painting Aux Courses ('At the Races', 1868, now in a private collection). She was originally positioned beside what may be the artist's brother Achille, but in a subsequent repainting Degas (1834-1917) overpainted her. This painting has since been restored and her figure has re-emerged. The striking figure coolly returns the viewer's gaze but with her face half-masked by her binoculars. This unsettling role-reversal fascinated Degas, who painted three full-length studies of the figure, one now in Glasgow (Burrell Collection), one in Dresden (Gemäldegalerie), and one in a private collection in Switzerland, as well as at least two other drawings. A pencil drawing by Degas of Manet, who often accompanied Degas to the races, has a figure in the same pose sketched in beside him. This drawing is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
The drawing is an astonishing combination of broad loose stabs with a brush, with areas of absolute clarity and control, for example on her lock of hair. The Swiss sketch is inscribed with the name 'Lyda', but no convincing attempt has been made to identify her. She cannot be Lydia Cassatt (as has been suggested), because Degas did not meet her until about 1877.
J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)
J.S. Boggs, Degas at the races (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998)