In a recent twist of a long running debate that has captured the attention of the art world for many years, a leading Degas expert believes that a long-disputed plaster of celebrated artist Edgar Degas’s “Little Dancer”, which displays the ballerina in a slightly different pose, is indeed an earlier model of Degas’s prominent 1881 sculpture “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans”.
The expert is Arthur Beale, the retired Chairman of the Department of Conservation and Collections Management at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Beale now believes the controversial theory of another art historian, Gregory Hedberg, that the plaster was created during the lifetime of Degas. Beale’s recent endorsement of Hedberg’s theory is particularly surprising as Beale was once part of a group of other respected art historians who have long contradicted Hedberg’s view of the plaster. The long-disputed plaster was discovered in the closet of a now defunct foundry outside Paris in 2004. Hedberg has said that the plaster is Degas’s work or of his studio and was created prior to the artist’s death in 1917.
In general, the Degas experts believe that the plaster is a copy with a number of distinct differences in pose, posture and expression from Degas’s actual “Little Dancer” sculpture. In parting ways with the other experts, Beale has said that the others “should take a second look” and that “there’s a good deal of evidence, of all natures—art, historical, technical, scientific and so forth—that make this a rather significant, seemingly significant piece.”
For further information on the long-disputed plaster, see “Did Degas Make This Plaster? An Expert Now Says Yes” as published by the New York Times on September 12, 2016.