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‘Cortège Sur Une Route Aux Environs De Florence,’ By Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas' “Cortège Sur Une Route Aux Environs De Florence," drawn between 1857 and 1860. Pencil and sepia wash on paper, 15.6 x 20.6 cm (6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in.) sheet. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)
Edgar Degas' “Cortège Sur Une Route Aux Environs De Florence," drawn between 1857 and 1860. Pencil and sepia wash on paper, 15.6 x 20.6 cm (6 1/8 x 8 1/8 in.) sheet. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

1857-1860

Five works on paper by Edgar Degas were stolen from cabinets in the Short Gallery, the passageway that leads into the large Tapestry Room on the Gardner’s second floor. They were stored with other prints and drawings in cabinets designed by Mrs. Gardner herself. Although he began as a painter of Biblical and historical scenes, Degas, like Manet (who was two years his senior), became famous for his depictions of ordinary life — most notably images of dancers, jockeys, and racing horses. The loss of three drawings of scenes with horses is a significant one.

The earliest of the images with horses, “Cortège Sur Une Route Aux Environs De Florence" ("Procession On A Road Near Florence") is a drawing from around 1857, 6-by-8 inches, in pencil and a sepia wash that gives it an antique look. The image is a small procession that shows Degas in a more historical mode. There’s some sort of carriage pulled by a pair of horses (the details are particularly hard to read in reproduction). One of the small but most arresting figures is a woman holding a large umbrella high above three women who seem to be dancing. And there’s an antique view of Florence in the distance.

— Written by Lloyd Schwartz


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