Skip to Content

The museum is closed today. View our hours.

Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

Image actions

  • A work made of oil on canvas.


c. 1860


Edgar Degas
French, 1834–1917

About this artwork

In 1859 Edgar Degas returned to Paris following a prolonged stay in Italy, where he visited relatives in Naples and Florence and attended life classes at the Académie Française in Rome. This picture, undertaken around 1860, speaks to his ambition to realize canvases featuring scenes from the Bible, as well as ancient and more recent history. Degas took his subject from the life of Lycurgus, a legendary ninth-century b.c. Spartan lawgiver. Lycurgus’s social reforms included an unusual method of physical training in which adolescent girls competed on an equal footing with boys, exercising nude in public. Degas would have worked up this monochromatic sketch with layers of color had he completed it, but he left it unfinished when he began a second version of the subject (National Gallery of Art, London).

On View

Painting and Sculpture of Europe, Gallery 226


Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas


Young Spartan Girls Challenging Boys






Oil on canvas


Inscribed lower right: Degas


97.4 × 140 cm (38 5/16 × 55 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions