The Ballet from "Robert le Diable"

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Edgar Degas, The Ballet from 'Robert le Diable, 1871

Edgar Degas was born in Paris into a moderately wealthy family. When old enough, his father wanted Edger to pursue a life in the courtroom. So they compromised, Degas went into the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853. Since he did not enjoy the world of the lawyers, he decided to not apply himself. He soon met Ingres who told him, "draw lines, young man, many lines."Shortly after Degas received admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he found his way through the school developing a style similar of Ingres.


Degas is known for his graceful paintings of ballerinas from an angle that is off to one side of the stage.  The Ballet from "Robert le Diable" comes from an angle in the audience. In this scene Degas depicts the third act of Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera Robert le Diable. The ghosts of dead nuns have been resurrected and greet one another amid the ruins of a moonlit monastery. While analyzing this painting, it reminds me of the ballet Dracula (preformed by the Kansas City Ballet) where Dracula resides in an abandoned abbey and frequently dances under the cover of moonlight (classic vampire stuff). 

Degas featured himself in this painting, right in the center of the audience. He is completely oblivious to the performance on the stage and his eyes wander off - much like the other students whom were seeing the inside of the Kauffman center for the first time. Degas paints  The Ballet from "Robert le Diable" with three harsh verticals; the edge of the audience, the arms of the dancers, and then the rail coming off from the archways in the monastery. There is not a good indication of a center, the column splits the painting just to the left, Degas' head just to the right, and the dancers are awkwardly sliced through the center of those two. 


The Ballet from "Robert le Diable" hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have walked through the halls of the Met, however I did not get to see this painting. I saw other pieces by Degas, which is where my appreciation of his works started. 

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