Cheval au galop sur le pied droit
Bronze: 0(h) x 0(w) in /
(h) x (w) cm
Signed, numbered and stamped with foundry mark: Degas 47/J AA HEBRARD CIRE PERDUE (on the top of the base)
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1834 – Paris – 1917
Cheval au galop sur le pied droit
Signed, numbered and stamped with the foundry mark: Degas 47/J AA HEBRARD CIRE PERDUE (on the top of the base) Bronze with brown patina Height: 13 ¾ in / 34.9 cm; length: 18 ¼ in /46.4 cm
Original wax model executed circa 1889-90; this bronze version cast by 1923 in an edition numbered A to T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard, marked HER.D and HER respectively
Walther Halvorsen, London (3rd March 1923) Private collection, California;
Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd., London, 25th July 1958, lot 13;
where acquired by Frank Partridge, London Private collection, UK
Richard Nathanson, London Private collection, Switzerland Sotheby’s New York, 8th November 1995, lot 34;
where acquired by a private collector, USA
J Rewald, Degas: Works in Sculpture, A Complete Catalogue, New York 1944, p.19, no.VI (another cast illus., p.41) J Rewald and L von Matt, L’oeuvre sculpté de Degas, Zürich 1957, no.VI (another cast illus., pp.3-5) F Russoli and F Minervino, L’opera completa di Degas, Milan 1970, p.142, no.S41 (another cast illus., p.143) CW Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton 1976, no.60 (original wax model illus.) J Rewald, Degas’s Complete Sculpture: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Edition, San Francisco 1990, pp.54-55, no.VI (original wax model illus. p.54; another cast illus., p.55) A Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Paris 1991, pp.172-173, no.41 (another cast illus., pp.92-93 and 172; original wax model illus., p.173) S Campbell, ‘Degas, The Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné’, Apollo, vol. CXLII, no.402, August 1995, pp.33-34, no.47 (another cast illus., p.33, fig. 45) Degas at the Races, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1998, pp.196-197 (another cast illus., p.195, no.120) JS Czestochowski and A Pingeot, Degas Sculptures: Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, p.213, no.47, cast J (another cast illus. in colour, p.212; another cast illus. and original wax model illus., p.213) S Campbell, R Kendall, DS Barbour and SG Sturman, Degas in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena 2009, vol. II, pp.262-266 and 537, no.43 (another cast illus. in colour, pp.262-265; original wax model illus. in colour, pp.262 and 265) SG Lindsay, DS Barbour and SG Sturman, Edgar Degas Sculpture, Washington, DC, 2010, pp.102-106, no.13 (original wax model illustrated in colour, p.103; original wax model illus. p.104)
Only one sculpture by Degas was exhibited in his lifetime: the wax Little dancer fourteen years old (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), shown at the sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881. He commented that it was a ‘tremendous responsibility to leave anything behind in bronze – this medium is for eternity'. Throughout his career, however, he constantly experimented with sculpture. His dealer Joseph Durand-Ruel noted that whenever he called on Degas he was ‘as sure to find him modelling in clay as painting'.
Cheval au galop sur le pied droit is the largest of fifteen wax and mixed media models of horses that were cast in limited editions by the founder Hebrard at the request of Degas’s heirs after his death in 1917. The original wax and cork model was in the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon and is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Barbour and Sturman date the wax model to circa 1889-90 with reference to a pastel of 1889, The jockey (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and from its similarity of construction to the wax The tub of 1889, which like the Cheval au gallop incorporates large, semicircular pieces of cork similar to those found on mustard jars. The wax Horse galloping has an exceptionally realistic and highly finished surface, which has translated to the bronze.
The late 1880s witnessed Degas’s most vivid and inventive horse sculptures, spurred by the 1887 publication of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs, which definitively analysed the animal’s gait. Degas admitted that although he rode and ‘had a fairly good understanding of the animal’s anatomy….I was completely ignorant of the mechanism of its movements’ until Muybridge’s work. Cheval au galop sur le pied droit duplicates the position of the horse in Muybridge’s ‘Annie G’ galloping, a racing gallop on a right lead. Suzanne Glover Lindsay notes that ‘The movement is an especially graceful yet dynamic phase of the gait, semi-suspended like the rear or the initial part of a jump….The horse appears about to gallop off its plinth'.
Degas had been fascinated by the power and beauty of horses all his life. He drew Roman sculptures of horses while in Italy 1856-59. The wax and clay Study of a mustang, executed in 1859-60 (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon) is his first surviving sculpture. Degas was an aficionado of the Turf, frequenting the racecourse at Longchamp on the western edge of Paris, which opened in 1857. Like the Opera-Ballet, which also provided so many of Degas’s themes, the racecourse was an ideal subject of ‘modern life’: intimate yet impersonal, elegant yet brutal, presenting tableaux as well as the opportunity to observe the most extreme, skilled forms of movement. In the recording of horses’ anatomy and spirit, Degas had the example of the great Romantic artist Theodore Gericault (1791-1824), whose horse portraits smashed the static mould of eighteenth century ‘sporting painting’. The excitement, the mixing of social classes, the sexually-charged atmosphere of the race meeting was not lost on genre painters such as Jean Beraud and William Powell Frith, and on contemporary novelists. Zola’s Nana parades at the races; Tolstoy builds one of the great set-pieces of Anna Karenina (1878) round a race meeting. Degas’s bronze Cheval au galop sur le pied droit strips away everything and gives us just the essence: a beautiful animal in motion, utterly heedless, utterly expressive of itself.
 Quoted in Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, Degas at the Races, exh. cat. by Jean Sutherland Boggs et al., 1998, in Daphne S Barbour and Shelley G Sturman, ‘The Horse in Wax and Bronze’, p.180.
 Quoted in ibid., p.180.
 Ibid., p.196.
 Quoted in ibid., p.185.
 Lindsay, Barbour and Sturman 2010, op. cit., p.105.