Edgar Degas, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen,” circa 1881, bronze, 38 15/16 x 13 11/16 x 13 7/8 in. © Stair Sainty

Through the compelling research of Art Historian Dr. Gregory Hedberg, Stair Sainty in London has an incredible story to tell surrounding one of the most significant bronzes in modern art: Degas’ “Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans.”

(Art) History is being made at London’s Stair Sainty from April 27 through May 26. The gallery recently announced that it will be exhibiting a stunning bronze sculpture by Edgar Degas (1834-1917), titled “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.” However, this is only where the fascinating story begins.

Significantly, it is believed that the featured bronze is actually a cast of the original 1881 wax sculpture made in Degas’ lifetime. The exhibition follows the recent publication of a monograph on the sculpture by Dr. Gregory Hedberg, director of European art at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York. In the text, Dr. Hedberg presents a convincing argument that other casts of the sculpture — which display slight differences in the figure’s clothing and pose — are actually representative of Degas’ reworking of the original sculpture.

These later examples (cast after the artist’s death in 1917) are familiar because they exist in museums around the world, from the Tate, London, to the Metropolitan Museum, New York, to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Hedberg further demonstrates that the featured bronze at Stair Sainty better matches contemporary descriptions of the bronze that appeared at the 1881 Impressionist Exhibition in Paris.

Gallery owner Guy Stair Sainty adds, “‘Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen’ is one of the most renowned examples of western art and the discovery of the plaster, which Dr. Hedberg convincingly argues, records the wax as it was presented in 1881 and gives us a better understanding of Degas and his artistic development. The startling differences with the bronzes cast from the wax found in Degas’s studio after his death are a revelation and explain why contemporary descriptions of the original bodice, leggings, horse hair wig, pose, and Egyptian qualities of the the first version of Degas’s wax better match details recorded by the bronze that will be shown at the Stair Sainty Gallery.”

To learn more, visit Stair Sainty.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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