Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

At the Milliner's

(c. 1882)

Pastel on paper mounted on board
27 5/8 x 27 3/4" (70.2 x 70.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy
Object number
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas has 7 works online.
There are 14,250 drawings online.

This cameo of nineteenth-century life maintains its intimacy through Degas's use of pastel, whose chalky texture quiets the scene in multiple veils of color. Pastel, an important drawing medium at the end of the nineteenth century due in part to a new preoccupation with color, appropriately expresses, through its inherent fragility, the ephemeral encounter between two women of different milieus that lies at the heart of Degas's composition.

Degas often accompanied his female friends to the dressmaker's and the milliner's. Here, one of them, the American artist Mary Cassatt, serves as the model and tries on hats while an attendant waits expectantly behind her. Cassatt's expression of contented self-assurance contrasts sharply with the apprehensive posture of the shopgirl, a figure obscured by cropping and the lack of delineation of her facial features.

In this daring nuanced composition about modern life—the subject is the fleeting encounter rather than the women themselves—Degas heeded the advice of the critic Edmond Duranty, who, in his 1876 pamphlet, The New Painting—about the art that came to be known as Impressionism—wrote: "Let us take leave of the stylized human body, which is treated like a vase. What we need is the characteristic modern person in his clothes, in the midst of his social surroundings, at home or out in the street."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 42

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Michel Manzi, Paris (Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Paris). Until March 1919
Auction, Collection Manzi, Galerie Manzi, Joyant, & Cie, Paris, March 14, 1919
Roger G. Gompel, Paris
César M. de Hauke, New York
Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York (Germain Seligman). [Purchased from de Hauke], by 1946
Dr. and Mrs. David M. Levy, New York. [By January 1953] – 1957
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy (Mrs. Adele R. Levy), 1957

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information, or have spotted an error, please send feedback to collection@moma.org.