Entertainment & Arts

Iconic Degas ballet dancer sculpture to be sold

Petite danseuse de quatorze ans Image copyright Tristan Fewings
Image caption Just 28 bronzes cast following Degas' death

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, one of Edgar Degas' most famous works, is to be sold at auction.

Petite danseuse de quatorze ans has been estimated by experts at Sotheby's to fetch £10m - 15m on 24 June.

The piece is one of few bronze casts in private hands with the majority housed in museums including Tate London and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Helena Newman from Sotheby's called it Degas' "most important and iconic sculpture".

She added: "The artist's ambitious and highly innovative work marks the pinnacle of his achievements as a sculptor, and its forthcoming sale represents a rare opportunity to acquire an icon of Impressionist art."

The original sculpture - modelled by a young Belgian ballet student named Marie van Goethem - is two-thirds life size and was originally sculpted in wax.

It is dressed in a real bodice, tutu and ballet slippers and has a wig of real hair.

Despite its reputation, the sculpture was not so well received when it first appeared.

The work was accused of representing the girl in a bestial manner; she was compared to a monkey who possessed a face "on which all the vices imprint their detestable promises, the mark of a particularly vicious character".

But critics had to acknowledge the work's astonishing realism.

The 28 bronze repetitions that appear in museums and galleries around the world today were cast after Degas' death in 1917.

Art historian Richard Kendall, co-curator of the Royal Academy's exhibition Degas and the Ballet said the original - cast in 1881 - "is among the three or four most celebrated sculptures of the modern age.

"Along with Rodin's The Kiss and the same artist's The Thinker, and perhaps Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty, Degas's statuette of a slender young ballet dancer has become recognisable to millions and admired throughout the world."

Earlier this year, Alberto Giacometti's "Pointing Man" also became the most valuable sculpture ever sold at auction, after going for $141.3m (£90.6m).

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