Edgar Degas – Toilette after the Bath

I usually I don’t put to this blog ‘just pictures’, without at least some stories about them. This one should be an exception, them, since I’ve written all my stories about Edgar Degas already (see 1, 2, 3, and all-at-once). It doesn’t mean that there is nothing else to say, or to write, on the contrary – the most interesting parts, as always, are in small letters, in the nuances.

Such as this painting; it doesn’t contradict the Big Picture, but adds an interesting twist to the saga of Degas’ mirrors. Both the time of its creation (1888) and the subject allows to relate this work to the series that refer as the Basins; but of many Degas’ ‘basins’ I’ve seen, this one is perhaps the most interesting.

It some sense, it is a ‘virtual basin’, an ‘unseen basin’. As often happes, the painting (pastel) looks like it’s only a fragment, or that the basin in question was ruthlessly cut off.  And not only the basin, the women (the bathing one) herself is also virtually invisible. As someone said in the comment to this picture on Flickr-e, “With Degas you can never be sure, with his agressive cuts“.

Google Art Project (where I found this image) says similar things: “The cropping of the motif imitates a photographic snapshot capturing the individual moment”. If we would judge by the square centimeters, the main hero of the picture is the white robe.

But for me the ‘hero’, or at least the pivotal point, is always a mirror. And in this picture the mirror is also quite virtual and hardly visible. It’s in the background, and similar to many other works of Degas, doesn’t play any significant role in the composition. However, here we see a certain effort to frame our attention, in such a way that we wouldn’t miss miss this mirror:

Degas places a small note, a letter, perhaps, to this picture, attaching it to the frame – thus marking the mirror surface (and also, indirectly, the way mirrors were used in the bathrooms, as placeholders of (un)important correspondence. One small detail, and the heroine-less picture gains a story.


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