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Dancer (Arabesque Over the Right Leg, Left Arm in Front), sculpture made by Edgar Degas

Degas was one of the most influential sculptors of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, but his work exists only in the form of wax and mixed-media models, and a few plaster casts. The bronzes through which his sculpture became widely known were not cast until after 1919 by the bronze founders A.-A. Hébrard & Cie, who fortunately preserved the models. Degas made three-dimensional models for his own satisfaction as a means of increasing his understanding of movement, and giving greater expression to his drawings and paintings. The models of women are not posed with a viewer in mind, but are shown behaving naturally. Unselfconsciously nude, the wash or dress, as if, as Degas said, 'you were watching them through the keyhole'. The models of dancers form two groups. Some are shown dressing, or doing what dancers do when not dancing, like examining their feet or easing their backs. Others are caught in movement or hold a classical ballet position with intense concentration. This example is one of a series showing dancers in arabesques.