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).
- 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.)
- Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection