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Portrait of Madame Dietz-Monnin, 1879

Edgar Degas

French, 1834-1917
Pastel on brown paper
18-1/2 x 12-1/2 in. (47.0 x 31.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
M.1976.07.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Degas did not accept portrait commissions as a rule, restricting his practice in this genre to members of his family and intimate acquaintance. This rapid, vigorous study for the portrait of an industrialist’s wife (today in the Art Institute of Chicago) was an important—and ill-fated—exception. The artist’s correspondence with his sitter indicates how quickly he soured on the project. “Let us leave this portrait alone, I beg of you,” he wrote, “I was so surprised by your letter suggesting that I reduce it to a boa and a hat that I shall not answer you... Must I tell you that I regret having started something in my own manner only to find myself transforming it completely into yours?”

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