2 3 Throwback Thursday and Marie van Goethem | Ballet Webb

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Marie van Goethem

Throwback Thursday and Marie van Goethem

Born on June 7, 1865, Marie van Goethem was the real life dancer that posed for the famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, by Edgar Degas. It was the only sculpture he ever displayed during his lifetime. In 1881, when the finished statue was unveiled, Marie was a member of the corps de ballet in the Paris Opera. She had joined the dance school there in 1878, at age twelve and had recently been promoted to the corps.

Her early life was one of poverty  and her family moved often, probably because they couldn’t pay the rent. Her father died in 1870, leaving her mother to raise Marie and her two sisters alone. This was the time of the Franco-Prussian War which made living conditions even worse, and the family did whatever was necessary to survive.

Degas modeled the statue by hand from wax, and the process took two years. He appears to have portrayed Marie in a way that captured the reality of her world: a brutal and unforgiving one where she was often exhausted, thin, and hungry. This may be why the statue didn’t sell, and it became his most controversial work.

After that first exhibition, Degas never display the statue again. Instead he kept it with him and jokingly referred to her as his “daughter”.  When he died in 1917, the sculpture was cast in bronze, and several of these bronzes are now in major museums. The original wax sculpture is believed to have been lost or destroyed.

A later work, a pastel entitled Dancer with Long Hair Bowing, shows Marie later in her career, now a soloist in the company. But what happened to her after that remains a mystery. If her life ended, as it began, in poverty, she would have been buried in a pauper’s unmarked grave.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Ballet Secret #15p:  
Marie van Goethem was the young model for the famous Degas sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people”
Edgar Degas

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