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

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

32 × 45 inches (81.3 × 114.3 cm) Framed: 45 × 58 1/2 × 4 1/4 inches (114.3 × 148.6 × 10.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 252, European Art 1850-1900, second floor (Toll Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986

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Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    Despite a wealth of anecdotal detail, the drama unfolding between the couple represented in this painting by Edgar Degas remains a mystery. Scholars have attempted to read the scene as an illustration of contemporary novels by Edmond Duranty and Émile Zola that describe unhappy, tense encounters between lovers, but none matches the details of Degas's painting precisely enough to be convincing. Besides, Degas outspokenly opposed making paintings that illustrated literature, and he referred to this work as "my genre picture" (a picture showing everyday life). An annotation in a notebook used by Degas in this period provides a clue as to his intentions: "Work a great deal on nocturnal effects, lamps, candles, etc. The fascinating thing is not always to show the source of light but rather its effect."1 The softly diffused light from the table lamp and fire contribute much to the intimacy of the setting and divide the conflicted figures, whose faces are cast in shadows. Degas made numerous preparatory studies for the room and the figures in order to create a powerful psychological mood and convincing setting. He seems to have intentionally obscured the narrative in order to seduce the viewer with the suggestive power of his painting and its unrevealed secrets. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 56.

    1) For Degas's comments on this work, see Jean Sutherland Boggs et al., Degas (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux; New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988), cat. no. 84, pp. 145, 146.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    After years of ambitious if equivocal attempts at monumental paintings on grand historical themes, by the late 1860s Edgar Degas increasingly turned to depictions of modern subjects. The dramatic play of artificial light and evening shadow in this painting, and the palpable sense of anxiety it transmits, are unique in Degas's scenes of private life. Although it is not without discrepancies in detail, the most convincing identification of the subject, proposed by the Degas scholar Theodore Reff, is that it illustrates a scene from Emile Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin (1867). Reunited on their wedding night, one year after they have killed Thérèse's husband, the lovers are overwhelmed by the enormity of their crime and retreat from one another into bitter isolation. Degas himself referred to it as "my genre picture," and it may have been intended for British collectors who appreciated the psychological tension in narratives painted by artists such as Sir John Everett Millais and Degas's friend James Tissot. The alternate title, The Rape, by which the picture also has long been known, does not seem to derive from Degas himself. Christopher Riopelle, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 195.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.