Mademoiselle Bécat at the Ambassadeurs, c. 1877
crayon lithograph with scraping, roulette and stump on wove paper
34.4 x 27.2 cm; image: 20.8 x 19.5 cm irregular
National Gallery of Canada (no. 23352)
Degas explored many aspects of leisure activity in 19th-century Paris from ballet to the racetrack, but he held a particular fondness for the eccentric world of the café concert, known for its strange and provocative sound, staging and performance. Émilie Bécat debuted at the Café des Ambassadeurs in the summer of 1875 and quickly gained a reputation for racy lyrics and a physical performance of gesture and innuendo. At least five light sources are portrayed in this print, including gaslight from a chandelier, the pedestal lamp with its globe shade, and the footlights illuminating the singer from below. Moonlight, and the fireworks that conclude the performance, are reflected in the mirror to the right.