Degas' Scene de ballet will lead Bonhams' impressionist sale

Scene de ballet, a wonderful piece from Edgar Degas, will provide the highlight of Bonhams' Impressionist and Modern Art auction, to be held on February 3 in London.

Edgar Degas Scene de Ballet
Edgar Degas is famed for his portrayal of ballet, exploring all aspects of the social scene that surrounds it

The work is described as "fearlessly modern" for its era, and is typical of Degas' output, which is famed for his obsession with the dancers of the Paris Opera. The work is estimated at £2.5m-3.5m ($3.8m-5.3m).

The circa 1885 oil on canvas shows the dancers backstage while a performance is taking place, stretching and chatting. The shadowy figure is thought to portray one of the abonnes (season-ticket holders), which Bonhams describes as "predatory figures…hoping to snatch some moments of company with the young dancers or indeed to proposition them."

It sold for £2.1m ($4.2m) at Christie's in 2008.

Also starring in the sale is a pastel nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir entitled La baigneuse assise (The Seated Bather).

Estimated at £800,000-1.2m ($1.2m-1.8m), the 1883 work is a superb example of Renoir's focus on the female nude, which set him apart from other impressionists and is well celebrated today.

An ink sketch from Picasso is valued at £200,000-300,000 ($300,000-460,000). Dated December 16, 1953 and titled La Paix, the piece was created in Vallauris, a Communist-governed town in France that awarded Picasso honorary citizenship in 1950 in respect of his advocacy of the Peace Movement and membership of the Communist party.

The town also gave Picasso a 12th century chapel to decorate as he saw fit, with the present work reflecting elements of his design.

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