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‘La Sortie De Pesage,’ By Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas' "La Sortie De Pesage," drawn in the 19th century. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 10.5 x 16 cm (4 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.) sheet. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)
Edgar Degas' "La Sortie De Pesage," drawn in the 19th century. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 10.5 x 16 cm (4 1/8 x 6 5/16 in.) sheet. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

19th Century

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.

Perhaps the most important of the stolen Degas is this small watercolor (date unknown), “La Sortie Du Pesage” ("Leaving The Paddock"), which shows two horses and their jockeys lining up and being led into the track, surrounded by bystanders — quite a crowd for a picture only 4-by-6 inches. Fascinating changes of position are evident from the still visible pencil drawing. The vibrant brown-orange jacket and cap of the jockey closest to the viewer, in a drawing mainly brown except for the whites of the jockeys’ britches, is the major focus of our attention.

— Written by Lloyd Schwartz


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