Head of a Young Woman Edgar Degas Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Degas often adored illustrating portraits within his work as it was something new to focus on.

During the late 1860's and early 1870's Degas was immensely immersed with portraying women within his work. This theme would continue as Degas eventually earns his fame for his ballerina adoration. Degas created an endless collection of the nude female body in which he studied their form. This pastel on paper collection included pieces such as After The Bath, Seated Bather, and Woman Having Her Hair Combed. This female analysis would rather transcend into focusing on the beauty and grace of ballerinas. Some of these pieces include Dancers In Pink, Dancer Tilting, and Three Ballet Dancers. Degas is most prominently known for these stunning pieces that capture the female body as it moves in music and emotion.

The Head If A Young Woman belongs to a collection of pieces by the artist in which he showcases endless posed portraits of people in his life. Some of these include Madame De Rutte, Elena Carafa, and Portrait Of James Tissot. These pieces have a similar element to them that the artist's contemporary Edouard Manet often had as well. The Head Of A Young Woman showcases an unknown woman as she poses for the artist. She is seated slightly to the side as she looks off into the distance. Degas is well known for often basing his pieces off centre, to upraise better dimension within his work. This portrait does exactly that as it offers both a side profile, alongside the centre of the woman's face.

The interesting element to note within the piece is only the woman's head is portrayed. Degas often enjoyed including the person's full body throughout then portrait, or at least their upper half. Another captivating piece that follows in this style is General Mellinet And Chief Rabbi Astruc. The portrait showcases the facial profile of two men. Nothing else is shown to the viewer. It's immensely interesting to wonder why the artist decided to only focus on the facial profile of the woman, rather than showcasing the rest of her body. Perhaps Degas was commissioned to paint this piece, following girders to only depict her face. The woman's side profile is created in endless details. Degas places a light source to the right of the painting, at which the woman looks towards. This adds greater depth and definition to the woman's face. Degas lightly contours the side of the woman's face to light her cheek bone and show depth. A glimpse of blush is thrown across the woman's cheek.

Degas continues this contour beneath the woman's face near her jaw. The bottom portion of her neck is completely shaded as her head covers it. Degas even adds light shade to the sides of the woman's nose as to where it covers the light. The woman's face is depicted in a creamy beige colour with hints of yellow throughout. Her eyebrows are portrayed in a warm brown colour to frame her face. The woman's eyes are also depicted as brown, with her eyelashes adding some depth. The woman's small orange lips are together as she stares into the distance. The muse's hair is placed in an up-do, held together by a black ribbon that lines her head. Small pieces of hair near the front of the woman's face are lifted to add some volume. On the woman's ear, the viewer is able to spot a small earring that hangs in a red colour. The woman is dressed in a deep brown dress that covers her chest and parts of her neck. As Degas is immensely masterful in portraying fabrics, the viewer can witness the soft silk texture.