More about Joséphine Gaujelin

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Have you ever seen a ballerina looking so dour?

Apparently neither had Joséphine Gaujelin, the subject of this portrait, who commissioned Edgar Degas to paint her, and was completely dissatisfied with the result. Gaujelin had a reputation for being a bright, charismatic dancer, which her black dress and still position, as well as nearly-expressionless face, fail to show in this painting.

Joséphine Gaujelin was a dancer at the Opéra in Paris, and later acted at the Théâtre du Gymnase. She was also frequently featured in the work of Edgar Degas. She can even be spotted as the central model in Degas’ first depiction of a dance class, which is now in the collection of the Met. Pretty cool, huh? At that time, the class had to be staged in the artist’s studio, as he had not yet been granted backstage access at the Opera. By the time of this portrait, Degas had full reign. Here, we see Gaujelin seated in her dressing room.

Despite the fact that Gaujelin hated this painting of herself, Degas still showed it at the Paris Salon of 1869 under another title (male artists and consent, amiright?). Around that time it was purchased by art dealer Michel Manzi. Though it is unclear exactly when the painting was moved, by 1904 it was under the stewardship of Eugene Glaenzer & Co. in New York. Gaujelin was angry when she found the painting would land in America. Can’t blame her, really. From there, Eugene Glaenzer & Co sold it to Isabella Stewart Gardner in March of 1904, for a *bargain* of a price: $30,000. Today, that would be about $866,204.49. Still a crazy low price for Degas! Not that I have that much change hanging around…but, a girl can dream!

It landed in the collection of Ms. Isabella Stewart Gardner due to her love of Degas. Although she didn’t really collect Impressionism, she appreciated Degas’s early history paintings, and made an exception for his impressionist work in her collection. ISG owned 5 Degas works, including this one. Jealous.