Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Achille Henri Victor Gouffé (1804–1874), Double Bass Player at the Paris Opéra, 1869
9 1/4 x 13 1/8 inches (227 x 321 mm)
Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum; EVT 279
Degas masterfully employed the device of placing the cropped figure of the bass player Gouffé—seen from behind—in the extreme foreground of the painting The Orchestra of the Opera (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). The viewer is situated in the audience, directly behind the orchestra pit, with a view past Gouffé to the footlit stage.
X-radiographs of the painting reveal that the figure of Gouffé was added at a late stage of execution, explaining the need for the present study. In fact, this sheet is from a sketchbook Degas used in Paris and Normandy between 1869 and 1872 that contained two other drawings for the same painting. These studies reveal his complex working method and document the continued evolution of the composition.