Edgar DEGAS (1834 - 1917): Sur la scène (3e planche) - 1876/1877


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Price: 48 000 €

[On the stage (3rd plate)]

Soft ground etching, drypoint and roulette, 99 x 126 mm. Delteil 32, Reed-Shapiro 24, 5th state/5.

Impression of the 5th state (of 5), the plate finished, the edges of the plate bevelled and the corners rounded. The plate is signed lower left in the Degas composition. Very fine impression printed on laid paper. Sheet size: approximately 125 x 203 mm. Perfect condition.

This impression is bound in the exhibition catalogue: Explication des ouvrages de Peinture, Dessin, Gravure des artistes vivants exposés dans les Salons de la Société, au Musée de la Ville, le 8 janvier 1877. Pau, F. Lalheugue, 1877 [Description of the Paintings, Drawings and Prints by living artists exhibited in the Salons of the Society, at the Musée de la Ville, 8 January 1877]. The cover of the catalogue bears the title: Société des Amis des Arts. Livret du Salon. 1877. Avec 11 eaux-fortes de MM. Degas, Desboutins, Goeneutte, Ch. Jacque, Lapostolet, Teysonnières, &&. The half-title is Société des Amis des Arts de Pau. 13me exposition annuelle. 1877.

In-8 volume, cloth-bound, red morocco spine labels inscribed Exposition de Pau and Paris 1877. Marbled endpapers. Engraved bookplate Biblioteca Caeiro da Matta pasted on the inside cover and annotation in ink on the title page N°9736. Stamp printed in purple, half faded, on the half-title. Minor defects to binding, wear and rubbing to headpieces. A few very minor restorations (rebacking of the spine, retouching of the tail cover). The two covers have been rebacked by the almost invisible insertion of strips of Japanese paper. The covers, the plates and the entire booklet are in perfect condition and very fresh; all the plates are protected by their original tissue papers.

Provenance: José Caeiro da Mata (1877-1963), Portuguese jurist, law professor and politician.

It is not known how many copies of the catalog were printed, but according to S. W. Reed and B. S. Shapiro, the figure must have been around 150, as the Société des Amis des Arts de Pau had 150 members at the time. In any case, the surviving copies are extremely rare. We have identified only four, only two of which are complete with prints. The first, which was sold at Kornfeld on 17 June 2011 (see the online catalogue of the sale), was acquired in 2020 by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which until then had only one copy without any plates. The second copy was sold at Christie's on 29 March 2017. The Frick Art Reference Library holds a copy without the Degas print.

Valérie-Sueur Hermel notes that the Degas print was printed by Cadart in two hundred impressions (Degas en noir et blanc, p. 85), which are also very rare today. Some preserved impressions have traces of stitching attesting that they were removed from their catalog (Baltimore Museum, British Museum).

The Salon catalogue contains eleven prints, which are not listed in the catalog and for which we have not found a precise description. Very few of them are signed. We can match them to the following exhibited works (listed here in the order of insertion of the plates in our copy of the catalog): Souvenir du Bas-Bréau, forêt de Fontainebleau by Charles Jacque (catalogue no. 257), Le Dimanche à la ferme de St-Siméon à Honfleur by Adolphe-Félix Cals (no. 75), La Rue de la mairie à Ciboure (Basses-Pyrénées) by Gustave Colin (no. 119), Un ballet à l'Opéra (pastel) by Edgar Degas (no. 486), Chanteuse des rues by Marcellin Gilbert Desboutin (no. 155), Tableau de famille by Marcellin Gilbert Desboutin (n°154), Le Boulevard de Clichy par un temps de neige (Salon de 1876), by Norbert Gœneutte (n°226), Le Canal de La Villette à Paris by Stanislas Lépine (n°300), Le Quai du Mont-Riboudet à Rouen by Charles Lapostolet (no. 270), Intérieur de cour à Beauvais by Hippolyte Sinet (no. 404), Les Bords de la Vienne, environs de Limoges by Pierre Teyssonnières (no. 417). The order of insertion of the plates and their location vary from one copy of the catalogue to another.

In our copy, as in that of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Degas plate is placed opposite page 40, which presents the paintings of artists whose names begin with De-, although the work exhibited that corresponds to it, a pastel, is presented in the final section of the catalogue: Aquarelles, dessins, gravures &&.

Valérie Sueur-Hermel recalls that "in 1877 [Degas] was commissioned to do an etching to illustrate the booklet for the annual Salon of the Société des amis des arts de Pau, whose organisers he knew, Alphonse Cherfils and Paul Lafond" and that the etching he presented was a "very free interpretation" of the pastel on a monotype background that he planned to exhibit there, Un ballet à l'Opéra, now kept at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Degas en noir et blanc, p. 85, translated by us).

Two other versions preceded Sur la scène (3e planche). Sue Welsh Reed and Barbara Stern Shapiro write that “On the rare occasion that Degas prepared a print for a wide audience, he went through an elaborate procedure of making preliminary drawings and trying state sequences before he was satisfied with the finished print”.

Analysing Degas's technique in Sur la scène (3e planche), Valérie Sueur-Hermel observes that "for the first time he chose to combine two processes that had previously been used separately: soft ground etching and drypoint, to which he added the passage of a roulette wheel in the final state. [...] The original point of view on the scene, combined with grey pencil effects never before used in intaglio printmaking, clearly distinguishes Degas's plate from the ten others executed by artists who 'belong to the most deliberate Impressionist school', such as Marcellin Desboutin, Norbert Gœneutte and Charles Jacque." (translated by us).

References: Sue Welsh Reed and Barbara Stern Shapiro, Edgar Degas, The Painter as Printmaker, 1984; Sylvie Aubenas, Henri Loyrette, Valérie Sueur-Hermel, Flora Triebel, Degas en noir et blanc, dessins, estampes, photographies, catalogue of the exhibition held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, 2023.