Modiste Garnissant un Chapeau (Milliner Trimming a Hat)
charcoal on paper
44.5 x 55.6 cm
Galerie Georges Petit, 3ème Vente Atelier Edgar Degas, Paris, 5th April 1919, Lot 400 Christie’s, New York, 14th November 1996, Lot 130 Private collection
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale 24 June 2014. Lot 395
Modiste garnissant un chapeau is a preparatory drawing for the pastel (illustrated centre opposite) with the same title, which is in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The fine charcoal work (illustrated opposite page) was acquired from the artist’s studio sale by Ambroise Vollard, the most important French art dealer of the early twentieth-century.
Modiste garnissant un chapeau exemplifies Degas’ talent for capturing the elegance of a gesture and the beauty in a fleeting pose. His drawings, pastels and oils were regularly exhibited together at the Impressionist exhibitions. This work captures a dynamic yet graceful moment as a milliner trims a broad-brimmed hat.
Degas’ series of images of milliners at work first appeared in the 1880s. He would frequently accompany friends to their appointments, entranced by the dextrious modelling by the milliner’s hands as they trimmed hats with colourful feathers and sumptuous materials.
This magnificent work was recently exhibited in a groundbreaking touring exhibition at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco at the Legion of Honor that examined, for the first time, Edgar Degas’ fascination with the subject of millinery. The theme of hat-making represents a crucial area of Degas’ exploration of Parisian modern life and was a focus for his formal experimentation for more than thirty years.