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Photo Credit: House Collection, Dumbarton Oaks

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The Song Rehearsal

Edgar Hilaire Germain Degas (1834–1917)

French, Impressionist
ca. 1872 - 1873
81 x 64.9 cm (31 7/8 x 25 9/16 in.)
oil on canvas

Not on view


In 1872, the Parisian-born Edgar Degas made his only trip to America to visit relations in New Orleans. He quickly established a bond with his American family, who became the sole subjects of the artistic studies that he created during his five-month visit, including those for The Song Rehearsal. The existing preparatory drawings as well as the painting itself, which he executed after his return to Paris, exemplify Degas’s interest in unusual viewpoints and purely contemporary subject matter. The finished painting portrays the highly dramatic exchange between two singers that is intently witnessed by the otherwise indistinct figure of the male accompanist. Degas began experimenting with this type of seemingly casual but carefully planned composition as early as the late 1860s, when he came under the influence of Manet, Japanese prints, and photography.

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss purchased this painting in 1918 at the first auction of Degas’s estate in Paris, paying a record price for the work. Their close friend and advisor, the artist Walter Gay, did the bidding on their behalf in an attempt to protect the Blisses’ anonymity. Indeed, the Parisian press first erroneously reported that The Metropolitan Museum of Art had acquired the painting but later stated that an American heiress had sold her pearls to get the work. However, the eventual knowledge of the Blisses’ involvement in the acquisition captured considerable public interest. According to an observer at the auction, Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, was fascinated and excited as she watched Mildred Bliss’s persistence in bidding until she succeeded in her effort to purchase the painting. She later joked that, since Mrs. Bliss’s fortune was based on her stock in castor oil, her purse was sufficiently fat to afford the purchase.

J. Carder

Catalogue des Tableaux, Pastels, et Dessins par Edgar Degas et provenant de son Atelier, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 5/6-8/1918, 58, no. 106.

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Jamot, Paul. Degas. Paris: Éditions de la Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1924, 69.

Watson, Forbes. "The Innocent Bystander." The American Magazine of Art 27(December 1934), 678, ill.

Cortissoz, Royal. "Paintings by Degas and Some Americans." New York Herald Tribune, October 11, 1934.

Alexandre, Arsène. "Degas, nouveaux aperçus." L'Art et les artistes 29, no. 154 (February 1935), 153.

Vollard, Ambroise. Degas, an Intimate Portrait. New York: 1937, pl. 53.

Lemoisne, Paul André. Degas et son oeuvre 2. Paris: Paul Brame and C.M. de Hauke, Arts et Métiers Graphiques,1946, 171, no. 331, ill [reprint edition New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1984].

Rich, Daniel Catton. Degas. New York: Abrams, 1951, 61, ill.

Huettinger, Eduard. Degas. New York: 1960, 33.

Byrnes, James. Edgar Degas: His Friends and Family in New Orleans. New Orleans: Isaac Delgado Museum, 1965, 79-80, 82, fig. 42.

Minorvino, Fiorella. Tout l'Oeuvre Peint de Degas. Paris: Flammarion, 1974, no. 361 [original Italian edition, Milan: Rizzoli, 1970].

Thomson, Richard. The Private Degas. London: Thames & Hudson, 1987, 44-45, 58-59.

Kendall, Richard. "Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum The Private Degas." (April 1987), 268, fig. 50.

Boggs, Jean Sutherland and Douglas W. Druick, Henri Loyrette, Michael Pantazzi, and Gary Tinterow. Degas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988, 189-190, no. 117.

Meller,Mari Kálmán. "Exercises in and around Degas's Class-rooms: Pt. 1." Burlington Magazine 130, no. 1020 (March 1988), 210, fig. 27.

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Keller, Horst. Edgar Degas. Munich: Bruckmann, 1988, 52, no. 38.

Milner, Frank. Degas. London: 1990, 82, ill.

Growe, Bernd. Edgar Degas 1834-1917. Köln: 1991, 27, ill.

Dumas, Ann, and Gary Tinterow et al. The Private Collection of Edgar Degas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997, 83-84, 183, fig. 95.

Benfey, Christopher. Degas in New Orleans, Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, 253-256, ill.

Feigenbaum, Gail. "Degas and New Orleans," Louisiana Cultural Vistas (Spring 1999), 34-45, ill.

Feigenbaum, Gail. "Degas and New Orleans: A French Impressionist in America," Arts Quarterly 21, no 2 (1999), 8-9, ill.

Boggs, Jean Sutherland. Degas and New Orleans, A French Impressionist in America. Hong Kong: C & C Offset Co., Ltd., 1999, 236-242, ill.

Boggs, Jean Sutherland. "Edgar Degas et La Nouvelle-Orléans." In Degas et la Nouvelle-Orléans. Copenhagen: Ordrupgaard, 1999, pp. 28-31, 112-113, cat. No. 27, ill.

May, Stephen. "Degas in America." American Artist (September 1999), 81, ill. p. 60.

Chambraz, Bernard. Oeil noir, Edgar Degas. Les Flohic, [1999], 18, ill.

New Orleans Museum of Art. "A 16-Month 2000 Calendar." [September], [1999].

Updike, John. Just Looking: Essays on Art. Boston: MFA Publications, 2001, 104, ill.

Carder, James N. "The Song Rehearsal." In Degas & America: The Early Collectors. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2000, 138f, no. 28, ill.

Castellani, Francesca. Degas e gli italiani a Parigi. Ferrara Arte S.p.A., 2003, 262-263, ill.

Dumas, Ann. Degas and the Italians in Paris. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2003, 43, pl. 10.

Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 360f, ill.

DeVonyar, Jill and Richard Kendall. Degas & Music. Glens Falls, New York: The Hyde Collection, 2009, 67-69, fig. 21.

American Impressionism, A New Vision 1880 - 1900. Katherine M. Bourguignon, ed. Distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2014, ill. p. 60.

Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Degas, Klassik und Experiment. Karlsruhe: Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, 2014, 142-44, no. 41, fig. 41 (Die Gesangsprobe).

Loyrette, Henri. Degas, A New Vision. Melbourne, Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria, 2016, ill. viii, 125-26.

Exhibition History
Possibly "Expositions exceptionnelles: hommage de la 'Nationale' à quatre des ses présidents décédés," Petit Palais, Paris, 5/1-6/30/1918 [listed as Répétition de musique].

"Exposition Degas," Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 4/12-5/2/1924, cat. p. 25, no. 24 [listed as Répétition de chant].

"Degas, portraitiste, sculpteur," Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 7/1931, cat. pp. 41-41, no. 31, pl. 3 [listed as Double Portrait de Mme Fèvre dit La répétition de chant].

"Degas," Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, NY, 11/5-12/1/1934, cat. no. 4.

"Degas 1834-1917," Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 11/7-12/7/1936, cat. p. 25, no. 22, ill.

"Paintings and Sculptures Owned in Washington," Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, 4/15-30/1937, cat. no. 10.

"Masterpieces of Art," New York World's Fair, 5-10/1940, Catalogue of European and American Paintings 1500-1900, pp. 188 and 190, no. 275 and reproduction.

"The Art of Mary Cassatt," Baltimore Museum of Art, 11/29/1940-1/10/1941.

"Works by Edgar Degas," Cleveland Museum of Art, 2/5-3/9/1947, cat. no. 19, pl. 18.

Biennale, 24th International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Venice, 5/29-9/30/1948.

"Masterpieces of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Painting," National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 4/25-5/24/1959, no. 21.

"Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Works by Manet, Degas, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt," Baltimore Museum of Art, 4/18-6/3/1962, cat. no. 39, ill..

"The Private Degas," The Arts Council of Britain, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England, 1/20-2/28/1987 and Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, 3/17-5/3/1987, catalogue by Richard Thomson, no. 38 pp. 44, fig. 55, p. 50, pl. 77.

"Degas," Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 2/9-5/16/1988; Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottawa, 6/16-8/28/1988; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 9/27/1988-1/8/1989, cat. pp. 189-190, no. 117, ill.

"The Private Collection of Edgar Degas," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 9/22/1997-1/11/1998.

Curatorial and Conservation Colloquy on Edgar Degas' paintings, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 5/18-21/1998.

"Degas and New Orleans: A French Impressionist in America," New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, 5/1-8/29/1999, cat. pp. 236-242, ill.

"Degas et la Nouvelle-Orléans," Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, 9/16-11/28/1999, cat. No. 27, ill..

"Degas & America: The Early Collectors," The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, 03/03-05/27/2001 and The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, 06/21-09/09/2001, no. 28.

"Degas e gli italiani a Parigi," Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, 9/14-11/16/2003.

"Degas and the Italians in Paris," National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 12/12/2003-2/29/2004 and extended loan until 7/15/2005.

“Degas at Harvard,” Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, Cambaridge, MA, 8/1-11/27/2005.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 12/9/2005-8/13/2007.

"Impressionist Interiors," National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 5/7-8/13/2008.

"American Impressionism, A New Vision 1880 - 1900," Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny, 3/28-6/29/2014.

"Degas, Klassik und Experiment," Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, 11/08/2014–02/15/2015, cat. pp. 142044, no. 41, ill. (Die Gesangsprobe).

"Degas, A New Vision," National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 6/24-9/18, 2016 and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 10/16/2016-1/8/2017.

Acquisition History
Purchased at the Degas Sale, Galeries Georges Petit, Paris (dealer), by Walter Gay for Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 5/7/1918, no. 106 [listed as Deux jeunes femmes en toilette de ville répétant un duo].

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 5/7/1918-11/29/1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.

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