A full-length, horizontal sketch of a single ballerina standing erect at the barre, done in black and ochre chalk with touches of pink and white pastel on beige-toned paper. The sketch is titled A Ballerina by Edgar Degas. The dancer stands on point on her right toe and her left leg and foot are raised in front to knee level, turned outward and pointed, her muscular calves revealed by black shading. The point shoes are filled in pale pink and white pastel, tied with ribbons across her arches and around her ankles. They are the only points of color in the piece. The ballerina’s right hand and forearm are resting on the barre, all roughly suggested by seemingly hastily sketched horizontal lines. Her left arm is raised about her head with each finger of her left hand articulated. Her profile is in three-quarters view from her left with her sharply pointed nose, thin lips, forward looking left eye, long neck, and curly hair lining her face, sketched in. She wears a sleeveless, scooped-neck tutu, form-fitting through her bodice, cinched at the waist and giving way to layers of a knee-length tulle skirt. A simple black line parallel with the barre suggests the point where the wall meets the floor. The entire sketch is schematically drawn with evidence of incomplete erasure of earlier positions of the raised left foot, seemingly a preparatory drawing for another work. In the upper left hand corner an inscription in black chalk reads, “bras gauche mauvais, en chercher un autre.” In the lower left hand corner the artist has signed his name in red, “Degas.”
Isabella Stewart Gardner kept meticulous records of many of her acquisitions. In keeping with this legacy, object information is continually being reviewed, updated, and enriched in order to give greater access to the collection.