The Dance Class

Edgar Degas
Keywords: DanceClass

Work Overview

The Dance Class
(La Classe de Danse)
Edgar Degas
Date: 1874
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 32 7/8 x 30 3/8 in. (83.5 x 77.2 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

This work and its variant in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, represent the most ambitious paintings Degas devoted to the theme of the dance. Some twenty-four women, ballerinas and their mothers, wait while a dancer executes an "attitude" for her examination. Jules Perrot, a famous ballet master, conducts the class. The imaginary scene is set in a rehearsal room in the old Paris Opéra, which had recently burned to the ground. On the wall beside the mirror, a poster for Rossini’s Guillaume Tell pays tribute to the singer Jean-Baptiste Faure, who commissioned the picture and lent it to the 1876 Impressionist exhibition.

The Dance Class is a painting by the French impressionist, Edgar Degas, which is now in the possession of the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York. It was bequeathed to the Metropolitan in 1986 by Mrs. Harry Bingham.

It is oil on canvas painting, measuring 32.88 x 30.38 inches, which Degas completed in 1874. The work was commissioned from Degas by art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure.

The painting includes several young ballerinas in a room. Some are sitting, some are standing, while one dancer in the center of the painting performs for the male teacher. The male is Jules Perrot, a ballet teacher who was renowned throughout Europe at the time.

In the background, several of the students’ mothers are looking on. A large mirror on the wall reflects some other dancers. In the left foreground, there is a wooden music stand with sheet music. Underneath the stand, a double bass is shown lying on the floor.