In 1858, Degas was in Florence to visit his paternal aunt Laura Bellelli, her husband, and their two daughters, Giovanna and Giulia. There he made preparatory studies for his first masterpiece, the painting that would come to be known as The Bellelli Family, now in the Musée du Louvre (d’Orsay). From Florence, he wrote to the artist Gustave Moreau that he was painting the little girls in black dresses with white pinafores, in which he found that they looked delightful. Degas returned to Florence in the spring of 1860 and did several more preparatory drawings. The Dumbarton Oaks study, Giulia Bellelli, is the most complete and perhaps the last of the several single-figure studies of her for the painting. As in the finished painting, Degas portrays her sitting on the front of a chair in an impatient pose. Centrally located in the finished painting, she was to serve as a link between the visibly estranged parents—the aunt whom Degas adored and the uncle whom he mistrusted. In his letter to Moreau, Degas described Giulia as having “some of the spirit of a demon and some of the goodness of an angel.”
The Blisses purchased Giulia Bellelli in 1937 at a time when they were finalizing arrangements to give their Washington, D.C. property and its collections, library, and gardens to Harvard University to establish the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, which they did in 1940. Although the research library would at first focus on Medieval, especially Byzantine scholarship, the Blisses wanted their collection to be well rounded and representative of a broader humanist tradition, from ancient Asia to the modern. To this end, they acquired significant non-Byzantine artworks between 1937 and 1939, including the Degas study.
Catalogue Vente Manzi. Paris, 1919, no. 32.
Collection Kelekian: Tableaux de l'Ecole Française Moderne. Paris: 1920, pl. 27.
Lemoisne, Paul André. "Edgar Degas à propos d'une exposition récente." La Revue de l'Art 46, no. 257 (June 1924), 19.
Jamot, Paul. Degas. Paris: 1924, 45.
Rebatet, Marguerite. Degas. Paris: 1944, pl. 9.
Lemoisne, Paul André. Degas et son Oeuvre 2. Paris, 1946, 33, no. 69.
"19th Century French Drawings." California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, 3/8-4/6/1947 (Catalogue 56-57, no. 89, ill.).
Dumont, Henri. Degas. New York: 1948, pl. 22.
Cooper, Douglas. Pastels by Edgar Degas. Basle: 1952, pl. 1.
Boggs, Jean Sutherland. "Edgar Degas and the Bellellis." Art Bulletin 37, no. 2 (June 1955), 131, fig. 11.
Cabanne, Pierre, Edgar Degas. Paris, 1958, 103, pl. 12 (as a portrait of Giovanna Bellelli).
Mongan, Agnes. "Dessins français des collections Americaines." La Revue des Arts 8me année, no. 5 (September-October 1958), 239.
Minervino, Fiorella. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Degas (with introduction by Jacques Lassaigne). Paris: Flammarion, 1974, no. 141.
Martensen-Larsen, Britta. "Degas and the Bellelli Family, New light on a major work." HAFNIA, Copenhagen Papers in the History of Art no. 10 (1985), 184-185, fig. 9.
Boggs, Jean Sutherland and Douglas W. Druick, Henri Loyrette, Michael Pantazzi, and Gary Tinterow. Degas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988, 85, no. 25.
Newlands, Anne. Meet Edgar Degas. Toronto: 1988, ill. back of dust jacket.
Keller, Horst. Edgar Degas. Munich: Bruckmann, 1988, 38, ill. 24.
Mühlberger, Richard. What Makes a Degas a Degas? New York: 1993, 13, ill.
Kostenevich, Albert. Hidden Treasures Revealed. New York: 1996, 80f, fig. 2.
Carder, James N. "Giulia Bellelli, Study for 'The Bellelli Family.'" In Degas & America: The Early Collectors. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2000, 100f, no. 9, ill.
Castellani, Francesca. Degas e gli italiani a Parigi. Ferrara Arte S.p.A., 2003, 206-207, ill.
Dumas, Ann. Degas and the Italians in Paris. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2003, 34, pl. 3.
Reed, Christopher. "Mad for Degas." Harvard Magazine (July-August, 2005), 44, ill.
Ursino, Mario. "La famiglia Bellelli in Italia." In Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, Degas, La famiglia Bellelli. Electa, 2005, 22, fig. 16.
Hofmann, Werner. Degas und sein Jahrhundert. Munich: C.H. Beck, , 51-52, fig. 36.
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 356f, ill.
Cowling, Elizabeth and Richard Kendall. Picasso Looks at Degas. New Haven and London: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; distributed by Yale University Press, 2010, 13-14, fig. 9.
Lloyd, Christopher. Impressionism on Paper. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2011, 82, pl. 17.
Lloyd, Christopher and Christine Ekelhart. Impressionism. Pastels, Watercolours, Drawings. Vienna: Albertina, 2012, 119, pl. 38.
von Manstein, Marianne. The Art of Seeing Wilhelm Leibl. Hirmer, pg. 79
"Paintings by Modern French Masters Representing the Post Impressionists and their Predecessors," Brooklyn Museum of Arts and Sciences, New York, New York, 3/26-4/24/1921 (Catalogue no. 74).
"Exposition Degas", Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 4/12-5/2/1924 (Catalogue p. 215, no. 11).
"Grands Maîtres du XIXe Siècle," Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 5/18-6/27/1931 (Catalogue no. 51).
"Degas," Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, New York, 11/5-12/1/1934 (Catalogue no. 4).
"Degas 1834-1917," Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 11/7-12/7/1936 (Catalogue p. 39, no. 59, ill.).
"Paintings and Sculptures Owned in Washington," Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C., 4/15-30/1937 (Catalogue no. 11).
"Portraits of Children," Museum of Modern Art Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2/22-3/20/1938.
"Exhibition of Great Modern Drawings", Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C., 4/7-5/1/1940 (Catalogue no. 36);
"19th Century French Drawings," California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, 3/8-4/6/1947 (Catalogue pp. 56-57, no. 89, ill.).
"Van Clouet tot Matisse," Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, 7/31-9/8/1958, "De Clouet à Matisse, Dessins français des Collections Américaines" (Catalogue, no. 33, pl. 159); Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 10/24/1958-1/2/1959, and "French Drawings from American Collections, Clouet to Matisse" (Catalogue no. 33, pl. 159); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, 2/3-3/15/1959 (Catalogue no. 33, pl. 159).
"Paintings, Drawings, and Graphic Works by Manet, Degas, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt," The Baltimore Museum of Art, 4/18-6/3/1962 (Catalogue no. 30).
"Degas og Familien Bellelli/Degas et la Famille Bellelli," Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, 5/11-7/24/1983 (Catalogue no. 33, ill.).
"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, New York, 9/27/1988-1/8/1989 (Catalogue by Jean Sutherland Boggs (Catalogue p. 85, no. 25, ill.).
"Degas & America: The Early Collectors," The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 3/3-5/27/2001 and The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 6/21-9/9/2001 (catalogue no. 9).
"Degas e gli italiani a Parigi," Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, 9/14-11/16/2003 (Catalogue no. 6, ill.).
"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, Massachusetts, 8/1-11/27/2005 (Catalogue fig. 29, ill. p. 54).
"The Collector's Microbe: Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss and the Dumbarton Oaks Collections," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., 4/9-11/9/2008.
"Picasso Looks at Degas," Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 6/13-9/12/2010.
"Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper," Milwaukee Art Museum, 10/14/2011-1/8/2012 and the Albertina, Vienna, 2/09-5/13/2012 (catalogue no. 17).
Manzi Collection, Paris [Manzi Sale, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Paris, 3/13-14/1919, no. 32, ill.].
Collection of Dikran G. Kelekian, New York, NY [Kelekian Sale, American Art Association, New York, NY, 1/30-31/1922, no. 101, ill; bought in through Durand-Ruel (dealer)].
Purchased from Dikran G. Kelekian, Paris (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 4/9/1937.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 4/9/1937-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.