The Dancing Class, ca. 1870. Edgar Degas. Oil on wood. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929.
This is Degas's first depiction of a dance class. Because the artist did not yet have privileges to go backstage at the Paris Opéra, his subjects came to his studio to pose. These sessions yielded many large study drawings, which Degas subsequently adapted for other compositions. In the late 1870s, he explained, "I have painted so many of these dance examinations without having seen them that I am a little ashamed of it."