Edgar Degas. Self Portrait. c. 1856. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Saidie A. May Bequest Fund, BMA 1953.205
Throughout his lifetime, Edgar Degas, like Rembrandt before him, produced a significant group of self-portraits. Here, the dramatic shading on one side of the face focuses attention on the artist’s eye making it, perhaps, a window to the soul, a reference to the artist’s sensitive vision, or more broadly, a symbol of human creativity.
After the theft of Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” from the Museum in 1951, the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company paid the BMA $2500 as compensation for the loss. In 1953, the Museum acquired Degas’ “Self-Portrait” with those funds in addition to monies from Saidie May’s bequest.
By Ken James Guessen
Mauve shadows paint their faces.
Monet tells of her last days. Renoir interrupts. Degas squints, listening to the memory as if it were his own.
“Relax your arms like a ballerina.”
She’s goes under. He dives, surfaces.
Tracing the rope to her waist, he lifts.
She arrives coughing, choking.
“A…line! You must learn to swim.”
“Get this off me!”
“La corda salvato la vita.”
“The rope was just long enough to hang me.”
The next morning he taps his razor. His reflection, an echo, his eyes reminiscing.
“I punched a hole in the wall,” he tells her.
Laughter erupts. Monet leaves abruptly.
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