Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Edgar Degas "The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" - Indianapolis Museum of Art - Dec. 8, 2004 - 3 stars

A loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, this bronze sculpture stands in the company of paintings by Degas' Impressionist contemporaries Monet, Vuillard and Renoir. This is but one of 27 bronzes and two plaster casts of " La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ons" (1878-1881) made after Degas' death by Paris founder Adrien A. H6brard that reside in museums from the Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. In person, this iconic work held no surprises or insight in part because it's been so prolifically reproduced. Rather, it pushed me to imagine what the wax, flesh toned, wig adorned original exhibited at the Sixth Impressionistic Exhibition in 1881 would have looked like and how that first incarnation was pivotal in changing the face of modern sculpture. What aren't we seeing that caused such a commotion and how did it embody Degas' intentions? Here, we do see the dancer (Marie van Goetham) in fourth position, as an obvious unflattering break from idealized conventions - no pedestal, not pretty, from a family of prostitutes, ballet was unfashionable – though she passes for charming today. Having inspired the Paris Opera's La Petite Danseuse last year and been the subject of a children's book among other things, she is deservedly delightful. This variation's successfully subtle tutu is of gathered white tulle over two layers of aged taupe colored crepe all edged in pinking shears. Her hair ribbon is effective though looks to be inventively executed from store bought metallic mesh ribbon reinforced with wire. Through Jan. 2, 2005; 317-923-1331. -Mary Lee Pappas

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