Entrance of the Masked Dancers

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Unlike many of Degas’s ballet scenes, which combine details from sketches made at different times, this pastel relates to a specific production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni . The viewpoint is that of an abonné, a subscriber with privileged access, like the top-hatted gentleman on the far side of the stage. As two weary dancers leave the stage, masked ballerinas take their place. The bold composition and vibrant colors evoke the immediacy of a live performance, though the pastel was almost certainly made in Degas’s studio.


Léon Clapisson, Paris (probably by 1882–91, as Deux danseuses, sold to Durand-Ruel, 19 May 1891); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, from 1891]; Paul Durand-Ruel (by 1901–d. 1922); estate of Paul Durand-Ruel, on deposit at Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York (from 1922, sold to Clark, 28 Apr. 1927, as Entrée des masques);¹ Robert Sterling Clark (1927–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.

1. According to the Durand-Ruel Archives, the painting was placed on deposit with Durand-Ruel, New York, on 30 Aug. 1926, and recorded in the Paris gallery on 28 Mar. 1927. Since it was not owned by the gallery, however, there is no mention in the gallery records of its sale to Clark. See correspondence of 24 Apr. 2001 in the Clark’s curatorial file.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

French, 1834–1917

Entrance of the Masked Dancers

c. 1879

Pastel on gray wove paper

19 5/16 x 25 1/2 in. (49 x 64.8 cm) Frame: 27 13/16 x 34 1/16 x 3 1/4 in. (70.6 x 86.5 x 8.3 cm)

Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1927