Etude de jockey stamped with the signature 'Degas' (Lugt 658; lower left) pencil on paper 30.8 x 23cm (12 1/8 x 9 1/16in).
PROVENANCE Estate of the artist: The artist's studio sale, part IV; Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 2-4 July 1919, lot 274a (illustrated p.237; one of two). Anon. sale., Christie's, London, 2 December 1980, lot 111. James Kirkman Gallery, London. Grob Gallery, London. Acquired from the above by the present owner.
LITERATURE A. Wofsy, Degas Atelier at Auction, Paintings, Pastels & Drawings Sales III & IV - 1919, San Francisco, 1989, no.274 (illustrated p.237). J. Sutherland Boggs in Degas at the Races, exh. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1998, p.147, under note 26.
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Brame & Lorenceau.
Degas' fascination for racing seems to spring from the same motivation as governed his interest in ballet. As Jean Sutherland Boggs noted of a study of a jockey in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, of the same date as the present lot, the jockey 'he is certainly not a gentleman, but had probably, like most of Degas' little dancers, had grown up, if not on a farm, on the streets of Montparnasse undernourished but tough. He has the indomitable willpower Degas admired in the young' (J. Sutherland Boggs, op. cit., pp.131-132).
The present drawing is part of a group of drawings of very similar handling dated by Jean Sutherland Boggs to circa 1885, including Study of a Jockey in a private collection (exhibited in Washington, 1998, no.77). They do not relate to specific projects but instead stand independently exploring the tension and exhaustion of the young jockeys. The lightly drawn pencil line serves to express the fragility and elegance of the subjects in a way analogous to the drawings of dancers from the same date.