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Title A Roman Beggar Woman
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Degas, Edgar (French painter and sculptor, 1834-1917)
Date 1857 (dated)
Signed yes
Description This austere image of an old beggar woman was painted by Degas when he was only twenty-three years old. In 1856, he visited Rome and studied at the school based in the Villa Medici. During this trip, he generally preferred to copy the old masters, creating only a few original works such as this one. This is one of two studies of an old woman and marks a turning point in his career. Despite its classical solidity, the detached observation of the woman's wrinkled skin and veined, arthritic hand, together with the dirt-ingrained clothing anticipate Degas' development as a painter in the coming years.

It has been observed that the pose of this figure and also her type and features are taken directly from a full-length seated figure in a painting by Giacomo Ceruti (active 1720-57) in a private collection in Brescia (illustrated in La Pittura a Brescia nel Seicento e Settecento, ex. Cat. 1935, pl. VI).

Current Accession Number 1960P44
Former Accession Number P.44´60
Inscription front lr 'Degas 1957'
Subject figure (beggar)
Measurements 100.3 x 75.2 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd. 1960.
Provenance Purchased from the artist for 10,000f as Mendiante by Durand-Ruel; Maurice Barret-Decap, Biarritz; Maurice Barret-Decap sale, Drouot, Paris, 12 December 1929, lot 4; Paul Rosenberg, Paris; Mrs Alfred Chester Beatty, London after 1934; Alfred Chester Beatty after 1952; on loan to the Tate Gallery, London 1955-60.
Principal Exhibitions Important Paintings by Great French Masters of the Nineteenth Century, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 12 Feb - 10 March 1934, cat. no. 13, ill.; Philadelphia, 1936, cat. no. 4, ill.; Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1937, cat. no. 2; Primitives to Picasso, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1962, cat. no. 212, ll.; Degas, Grand Palais, Paris, 1988, cat. no. 11; French Impressionism: Treasures from the Midlands, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1991, p. 6; Degas - The Portraits, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1994, cat. no. 21, ill. (touring); Art Treasures of England: Regional Collections, Royal Academy, 1998, cat. no. 341, ill.; La Nascita dell 'Impressionismo, 2000, cat. no. 38, ill.; Il Ritratto impressionista da Manet a Gauguin, Museum of Risorgimento 2003.
Publications Mauclaire, C., The French Impressionists, London, New York, 1903, p. 77, ill.; Mauclaire, C., The Great French Painters, London, 1903, p. 69; Geffroy, G., 1908, p. 69, ill.; Lemoisne, A. Degas et son oeuvre, New York and London, 1984, 2nd ed., no. 28; Lafond, P., Degas, 1918-19, II, p.2, ill.; Jamot, P., Degas, 1924, p. 129, fig. 1; Alexandre, 1935, p. 154, ill.; Longhi, R., Critica d'Arte, vol. 3, 1938; Lassaigne, J., Minervino, F., Tout l'oeuvre peint de Degas, Paris, 1974, no. 71; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 41, ill.; Rome 1984-5, pp. 116-8, ill.; Loyrette, 1991, p. 97.
Notes On stretcher: 1. Pennsylvania Museum of art/ Artist Edgar Degas/ Title Mendiante Romaine/ Lender Mrs. Chester Beatty/ Address London England; 2. Inscribed 'Degas 8749; 3. J. Chenue/ French Packer/ inscr. Chester Beatty; 4. Label inscribed X2570; 5. Ch. Potter/Emballeur/ 14 Rue Gaillon, Paris/ 4125/27.6.34; 6. Inscr. 8847/ Mendiante/ Mass.
Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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