Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Cheval au galop sur le pied droit

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Cheval au galop sur le pied droit
signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'Degas 47 HER.D AA HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (Lugt 658; on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 12 ½ in. (31.8 cm.)
Length: 18 ¼ in. (46.4 cm.)
Original wax model executed in the late 1880s; this bronze version cast at a later date in an edition numbered A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard marked HER.D and HER respectively
René de Gas, New Orleans.
Gaston de Gas Musson, New Orleans (by descent from the above).
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (acquired from the above, 1949).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, 1963.
J. Rewald, ed., Degas: Works in Sculpture: A Complete Catalogue, New York, 1944, p. 19, no. VI (another cast illustrated, p. 41).
J. Rewald and L. von Matt, Degas Sculpture, Zürich, 1956, no. VI (another cast illustrated, pp. 3-5).
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'opera completa di Degas, Milan, 1970, p. 142, no. S41 (another cast illustrated, p. 143).
C.W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, p. xiii, no. 60 (original wax model illustrated).
J. Rewald, Degas's Complete Sculpture: Catalogue Raisonné, New Edition, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 54-55, no. VI (original wax model illustrated, p. 54; another cast illustrated, p. 55).
A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris, 1991, pp. 172-173, no. 41 (another cast illustrated, pp. 92-93 and 172; original wax model illustrated, p. 173).
S. Campbell, "Degas, The Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné" in Apollo, vol. CXLII, no. 402, August 1995, pp. 33-34, no. 47 (another cast illustrated, p. 33, fig. 45).
Degas at the Races, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, pp. 196-197 (another cast illustrated, p. 195, no. 120).
J.S. Czestochowski and A. Pingeot, Degas Sculptures: Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p. 213, no. 47 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 212; another cast illustrated again and original wax model illustrated, p. 213).
S. Campbell, R. Kendall, D. Barbour and S. Sturman, Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 2009, vol. II, p. 537, no. 47 (another cast illustrated in color, pp. 262-265; original wax model illustrated in color, p. 265).
S.G. Lindsay, D.S. Barbour and S.G. Sturman, Edgar Degas Sculpture, Washington, D.C., 2010, pp. 102-106, no. 13 (original wax model illustrated in color, p. 103; original wax model illustrated again, p. 104).
Ohio, Toledo Museum of Art, 1963-1979 (on extended loan).

Lot Essay

“Happy sculptor... but I have not yet made enough horses!” So Degas wrote, exhilarated, to his friend and fellow sculptor Albert Bartholomé in 1888, after having created this powerful and dynamic statuette of a horse galloping (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 197). A long-time habitué of the racetrack at Longchamps, Degas had begun to model horses more than two decades earlier, producing at least six sculptures in the 1860s of thoroughbreds in stable, traditional standing and walking poses. In the 1880s, by contrast, the period of Degas' most passionate engagement with equine statuary, his sculpted horses became ever more active and experimental, the animals captured in the midst of trotting, prancing, rearing, balking, and galloping.
In addition to his own close first-hand observations of racehorses, Degas also drew inspiration for his daring equine statuary from Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering stop-action photographs of horses in motion, which received their definitive publication in 1887. Muybridge’s images revolutionized the understanding of animal movement, demonstrating, for example, that a galloping horse’s four feet are all off the ground not when the legs are extended but rather when they are tucked beneath the animal. “Even though I had the opportunity to mount a horse quite often,” Degas later admitted, “even though I could distinguish a thoroughbred from a half-bred without too much difficulty, even though I had a fairly good understanding of the animal’s anatomy, I was completely ignorant of the mechanism of its movements [before Muybridge]” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 185).
Cheval au galop sur le pied droit, the largest of all Degas’ surviving horse sculptures, explores the fastest and most thrilling form of equine motion, the racing gallop on a right lead. Degas has accurately captured the horse’s position at an instant of powerful forward thrust, immediately before the legs are fully extended. The hind legs have already made their initial two-beat footfall; the left foreleg now stretches to take ground, and the flexed right foreleg begins to straighten to succeed it. A frame from Muybridge’s photographic sequence of the racehorse Bouquet galloping shows the animal in almost the identical position, with the same vigorously outstretched neck, raised tail, and forward-turned ears. “The movement is an especially graceful yet dynamic phase of the gait, semi-suspended like the rear or the initial part of a jump” Suzanne Glover Lindsay has explained. “The horse appears about to gallop off its plinth” (op. cit., 2010, p. 105).
Like all Degas' work in three dimensions, Cheval au galop was originally modeled in wax and cast by Hébrard in a limited bronze edition only after the artist’s death, at the request of his heirs. It proved one of the most successful of the bronzes, with casts sold almost annually during the first half of the 1920s. “None of the horse’s energy is lost in translation from wax to bronze,” Shelley Sturman has concluded (op. cit., 2009, p. 265).

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