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Ballet at the Paris Opéra

Color pastel drawing of ballerinas in tutus on stage, watched by audience.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Color pastel drawing of ballerinas in tutus on stage, watched by audience.




Edgar Degas
French, 1834-1917

About this artwork

One of the nineteenth century’s most innovative artists, Edgar Degas often combined traditional techniques in unorthodox ways. In Ballet at the Paris Opéra, the artist creatively joined the monotype technique, rarely used in his time, with the fragile medium of pastel. Described as “the powder of butterfly wings,” pastel was the perfect medium to illustrate the onstage metamorphosis of spindly young dancers into visions of beauty as perfect and short-lived as butterflies. This work, executed on one of the widest monotype plates ever used by the artist, bears Degas’s characteristically cropped forms and odd vantage points, which effectively convey the immediacy of the scene. The view is from the orchestra pit, with the necks of the double basses intruding into the dancers’ zone. The central dancer is in fifth position, en pointe, but the random placement of the corps de ballet, with the dancers’ free-flowing hair, suggests a rehearsal rather than a performance. The Paris Opéra was the official school of the first state-supported ballet, the Académie Royale de Danse, created in 1661.


Currently Off View


Prints and Drawings


Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas


Ballet at the Paris Opéra


France (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Pastel over monotype on cream laid paper


Signed recto, lower left, in white pastel: "Degas"


Plate: 35.2 × 70.6 cm (13 7/8 × 27 13/16 in.); Sheet: 35.9 × 71.9 cm (14 3/16 × 28 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mary and Leigh Block

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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