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Woman Combing Her Hair before a Mirror, c. 1870-1875

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Oil on canvas
18-3/8 x 12-3/4 in. (46.7 x 32.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

More swiftly and richly painted than most Degas works of the 1870s, this scene of a woman combing her hair offers few clues to its subject’s identity. The artist returned again and again to the theme of women combing their hair—from backstage to brothel to bourgeois interior—capitalizing on the chance it provided to portray a figure absorbed in her task, seemingly unaware she is being observed. Degas painted this particular composition on top of an earlier picture, probably a portrait, which he turned upside down before beginning anew. The left ear of the hidden sitter remains visible in the curve of the figure’s waist.

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