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Ballet from an Opera Box

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917

Made in France, Europe

c. 1884

Pastel on paper

Sheet: 25 3/4 × 19 7/8 inches (65.4 × 50.5 cm) Framed: 36 7/8 inches × 31 inches × 3 1/2 inches (93.7 × 78.7 × 8.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
Cat. 969

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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The setting for this pastel is the Palais Garnier Opéra House, where you can still attend performances today. The Palais Garnier is famous for its opulent and luxurious interior. However, instead of focusing on this richly ornamented space, Edgar Degas concentrates on the colorful dancers, the theatrical lighting, and the audience's overwhelming visual experience.

A finely dressed woman rests her arm on a balcony railing and looks over her shoulder to watch the performance from a box seat above the stage. A dancer in a bright yellow and orange costume is taking a bow. Degas portrays the spectacle from a disorienting point of view, cutting off the central figures with other figures or with the edges of the picture frame.

He loved using pastel because he could scribble lines but also use his fingers to smudge broad areas of color-the pastel was soft and malleable and it did not dry hard like paint. Today the word "pastel" is often associated with pale shades of colors, but Degas liked to use strong vibrant hues to capture the effects of light and shadow.