Sotheby’s has a cast of Degas’s Petite Danseuse in the June sale of Impressionist and Modern art. Although the statue has a unique casting history with a wax version created sometime between 1879-81 and this one eventually cast in bronze in 1922. The last time one of these works came to market, it sold for $19m after several years being priced at $12m:
Edgar Degas’s Petite danseuse de quatorze ans, estimated to fetch £10 – 15 million / US$15.3 – 23 million, will feature in the forthcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London on 24 June 2015. Petite danseuse de quatorze ans is the most ambitious and iconic of Degas’s works and one of only a handful of bronze casts that remain in private hands – the majority are housed in major international museum collections, including Tate, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Museé d’Orsay, Paris.
The history of the casting of the Petite danseuse de quatorze ans is more complicated than that of the other seventy-three bronzes. Its unique position in Degas’ sculptural œuvre was already apparent in 1903 when Louisine Havemeyer first considered purchasing the original wax. The sale did not go through and the work was not cast in bronze but from references in Degas’ correspondence and from other sources it is apparent that he was actively considering the advantages and disadvantages of making bronze casts from his fragile waxes. Mrs Havemeyer made a second attempt to purchase the wax sculpture following Degas’ death in 1918 but failed yet again as a result of complications arising from the division of Degas’ estate. She was successful four years later, however, in purchasing the first bronze cast that is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York as part of the complete set of Degas bronzes donated by Mrs Havemeyer in 1929. As is the case with the other models, the casting took place over a number of years but unlike the smaller sculptures which theoretically were to be cast in an edition of twenty-two (twenty for sale, one for the founder Hébrard and one for the Degas heirs), the numbering is less consistent. Some of the casts were set onto wooden bases into which the artist’s signature was burned and to which the Hébrard foundry mark and identifying letter of the cast were affixed, while other casts were unlettered. In their catalogue raisonné published in 2002, Joseph S. Czestochowski and Anne Pingeot have identified and located 29 casts, of which there are 27 in bronze and 2 in plaster, plus the Modèle bronze and the original wax.