Christie’s Atelier Degas sale to feature early drawings

Christie’s Atelier Degas sale will feature a wealth of drawings from one of the fathers of impressionism.

The star of the Paris sale is Degas’ copy of a detail from Da Vinci’s Saint Jean Baptiste, which is valued at $53,038-74,253.

Edgar Degas drawing

This is among Degas' earliest studies 

The piece dates to around 1853-1854, soon after Degas left school.

Degas dreamed of becoming an artist but his father insisted he attend law school, so he duly obliged. However, he continued to draw and paint in his spare time. By 1855 Degas had dropped out to attend art school.

Later he travelled to Naples and on his return set up a studio in Paris.

The present work is among his earliest and shows his enormous promise.

Christie’s explains: “He takes the essential from the subject matter, and Saint John the Baptist’s malicious smile is immediately recognizable.

“Yet Degas’s incredible originality is in evidence from the use of space on the sheet to the support of dark brown paper, where the faint suggestions of the Saint’s eyes quietly emerge.”

A study for his portrait of Therese and Edmond Morbilli (1865-1866) carries an identical estimate of $53,038-74,253.

Therese was Degas’ sister and lived in Naples. This study was likely completed on her and her husband Edmond’s visit to Paris in 1865.

The final painting remained in Degas’ studio until his death in 1917.

It’s now housed in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

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