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Ballet from an Opera Box
Ballet from an Opera Box, c. 1884
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, French
Pastel on paper
Sheet: 25 3/4 x 19 7/8 inches (65.4 x 50.5 cm)
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
Cat. 969
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Looking Questions

  • This picture has a foreground, middle ground, and background. How does the brightness or darkness of the pastels in these areas affect the composition? Is the distance from the woman in the foreground to the dancers in the background long, deep, or short? This work is missing a horizon line that anchors our view. How does it make you feel?
  • The woman in the balcony has a fan in her left hand. What color is the fan? Describe the colors that Degas uses. Are they soft or strong, bright or dull? Describe the types of strokes he used. Are they thick or thin? How many descriptive words can you come up with?
  • Pretend you are sitting next to the woman in the balcony. Could you hear the music? What kind of music is it, loud or soft? What kind of instruments could you hear?
  • Degas is known for his vivid use of light and shadow. The artificial gaslights of the stage cannot be seen here; however, can you tell they are there? Where is the light coming from, above or below? Does the light fall softly and evenly across the figures? Or does it highlight some areas and leave others in deep shadow? How does the light affect the mood?

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