There’s a famous Degas drawing, an étude pour Sémiramis, that I have always loved.  It’s made using graphite, watercolor and gouche and lives at the Louvre, I think.  A friend of mine saw the original once in an exhibition.  But I have known it only distantly from books.  Looking through one of those books yesterday, I decided to draw it quickly.  And I discovered to my surprise that I no longer believe he made it from life.  (Please note, that some art historian somewhere has researched the matter and published his opinions definitively whereas this question of mine is totally personal.)

I used to assume that the old masters could do anything.  And they could!  But even in their being able to leap over tall buildings with a single bound they still bent to earth and did things in ways that afterwards might strike us as normal.  And so it was that I now conclude that Degas made his drapery study from a mannekin.  In his drawing she has no head and her lack thereof relates to her having possessed perhaps an uncomely stuffed mannekin sort of head that the artist found uninteresting to study for his painting of Sémiramis!  (Evidently she lacked the pizazz of my Doll with Big Hair.)

So instead he concentrated all his attention on the drapery of a wonderful garment!  I wonder where he got that from?!

And ladies, I ask you, why don’t we all wear dresses like this today?  We could dress like rock stars, we could ….

5 thoughts on “Loved from Afar

  1. Love this drawing, and your observations, and, yes, somoene somewhere commented on the Mannerists’ drawing from stiffly posed non-human figures…. the drapery here is clearly what was inportant, then and now…. Nice!!!

    Thank you, Ann! Now I’ve just got to figure out where to get one of those mannekins and where to get the dress!

  2. I love to know how it is made, the tricks that all artits use and are not always confortable revealing.
    Are you sure you would like a dress with so many folds? I am just thinking of the washing and ironong part.

    Merci, Ben. De partager ma magie avec le monde est mon ambition! Quant aux nombreux plis de la robe … hmmm … je n’ai jamais pensé si loin devant. Oops!

  3. From my headless cellist to your headless mannequin. At first I thought she might be scrubbing the floor.

    Degas’s is the one who is headless. Mine has sort of a head. I never thought about what she is doing … too nice a dress for floor scrubbing, but maybe you’ve uncovered something here … perhaps this is the first subliminal inklings of Degas’s later fascination with laundresses and other working girls??? Anyway, we find a theme — the headless figure. Can we turn it into a Twilight movie, or something like that? Make a hundred million??

  4. A lovely sketch Aletha – I love the old style of clothes 😉 but the maintenance would be difficult, as Ben points out – that is where the servants come in (dream on) 🙂

  5. Ones really needs servants, I suppose. Of course the servants want to be wearing those fabulous dresses too, and so the servants need servants. And so forth.

    And then “it’s turtles all the way,” as the saying goes.

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