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Edgar Degas (French, 1834 - 1917)
Study for Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, pastel on laid paper.
Bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler. Conservation funded by Mr. and Mrs. William O. Alden, Jr., 2004 1964.31.10

Miss Lala, an acrobat at the popular Cirque Fernando in Paris, took her star turn by performing a spectacular aerial act called the iron jaw. Clenching a thick strap with a leather mouthpiece between her teeth she would be hoisted up to the three story high ceiling of the Cirque. In the 1870s many avant-garde artists were turning to popular culture as a source of subject matter for their work. Miss Lala captured Degas’ attention and she became one of the many entertainers, dancers and singers he depicted. This drawing is a preliminary study, most likely executed on the spot, for a painting he made of the performer in the midst of the daring act. The drawing is a great example of Degas’ interest in unusual positioning of the female body, as well as his admiration for feats of agility and strength.




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