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Self-portrait, 1857

Edgar Degas
French, 1834 - 1917
etching on wove paper
26 x 18.2 cm irregular; plate: 23.2 x 14.4 cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Canada (no. 28293)

This is Degas's only etched self-portrait and the only self-portrait that he ever allowed out of his possession. He was first introduced to etching in Paris in 1855-56 by the Romanian landscape painter Prince Grégoire Soutzo. (This impression of the rare print came from Soutzo's collection.) While in Italy from 1856 to 1858, Degas began exploring etching more seriously, prompted by a professional printmaker friend and inspired by the example of Rembrandt. In this insightful depiction, made at the age of twenty-three, Degas appears both vulnerable and immensely self-confident; it is an image of a young artist anticipating his greatness.

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