The Serious Client, c. 1879
monotype on wove paper
31.3 x 23.1 cm; plate: 21 x 15.9 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 18814)
Degas executed fifty monotypes on the theme of the brothel, though it is unclear if he exhibited or distributed any during his lifetime. These prints certainly do not glamorize the trade, but rather provide moving and realistic portrayals of prostitutes as bored women going about their business in an altogether unappealing manner. The explicit nature of the poses reflects the frank commercial exchange that took place in the licensed "maison close", the term for a regulated brothel in France. A monotype is made by applying printer’s ink or oil paint with a brush or rag on a metal plate and then printing the image on a sheet of dampened paper with the aid of a rolling press. Only one or two impressions may be pulled before the ink is used up. Thus this work, while made using a reproductive process, is nevertheless a unique object.