Degas’ ‘Little Dancer’ Fetches Record-Breaking $41.6 Million In Auction Of Late Ballet Patron’s Art Collection


One of Edgar Degas’ iconic “Little Dancer” sculptures broke the artist’s public sale document Thursday when it bought for $41.6 million from the gathering of the late Anne Bass, the previous spouse of an oil billionaire who championed American ballet.

Key Facts

“La Petite Danseuse de quatorze ans,” or “Little Dancer of fourteen years,” is a bronze forged of the one sculpture that Degas ever exhibited in his lifetime, primarily based on a younger ballerina named Marie van Goethem who was finding out ballet in Paris.

Thursday’s profitable bid for the sculpture—which bought at Christie’s—surpassed the earlier document value for a Degas work at public sale, which was final set in 2015 when one other “Little Dancer” bronze bought for $24.8 million.

The record-breaking bronze final belonged to Bass, a longtime patron of the New York City Ballet and the one-time spouse of Texas oil billionaire Sid Bass, who’s value $3.5 billion in line with Forbes’ real-time wealth tracker.

This bronze was commissioned in August 1927 from the distinguished Hébrard foundry, which Degas’ household tapped after the artist’s dying to forged the sculptures he left behind (although the Hébrard casts had been created after Degas’ 1917 dying, they’re broadly considered within the artwork world as genuine items from the artist).

Bass acquired the sculpture from Sandra Payson, the daughter of industrialist Charles Shipman Payson and his spouse Joan Whitney Payson, a member of the outstanding Whitney household and the primary girl to personal a major-league baseball crew that she didn’t inherit (Bass’ longtime Fifth Avenue house in New York was additionally previously occupied by the Paysons, Christie’s mentioned).


The authentic wax “Little Dancer” sculpture featured actual hair, was wearing a fabric tutu and brought about a scene in 1881 when Degas first exhibited it in Paris, the place critics known as it “quite simply hideous” and a “flower of precocious depravity,” a reference to undeniable fact that ballet dancers in that period usually labored as prostitutes. Fewer than 600 of the bronze “Little Dancer” sculptures had been created earlier than Hébrard closed in 1937 and the household approved a distinct foundry, making the casts from that run coveted on the artwork market. The authentic sculpture, which Degas crafted round 1880, is a part of the gathering on the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Key Background

Bass died at age 78 of ovarian most cancers final yr. When she separated from Sid Bass in a extremely publicized 1988 divorce, she walked away with a settlement believed to be between $200 and $500 million, reportedly the biggest in Texas historical past on the time. Along with ballet, Bass was captivated with artwork and bought one of many “most important American collections” to hit the market in many years, Christie’s public sale home mentioned when it introduced the public sale of her paintings in March. Along with the sculpture, work by Degas, Mark Rothko and Claude Monet fetched Thursday.

Further Reading

Arts Philanthropist Anne Bass’ $250 Million Collection Of Paintings And Statues Heads To Auction (Forbes)

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