Anonymous sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 17 October 1973, lot 46
Private collection, since 1973
Paris, Galerie A. A. Hébrard, Exposition des sculptures de Degas, 1921, no. 13, two other casts exhibited (from the Musée d’Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Glancing at the Century, 28 June - 20 September 1998, p. 22, ill. p. 23
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Classics of Modern Art, 27 June - 19 September 1999, pp. 36-37, ill. p. 37
John Rewald, Degas, Works in Sculpture: A Complete Catalogue, Pantheon Books, New York, 1944, vol. II, no. 11, p. 19, another cast illustrated p. 35
John Rewald, “Degas Dancers and Horses”, Art News, XLIII, 11 September 1944, p. 23
Pierre Borel, Les Sculptures inédites de Degas, Geneva, 1949, n.p.
John Rewald, Degas’ Sculpture, The Complete Works, London, 1957, no. II, another cast illustrated pl. 2.
Pierre Cabanne, Edgar Degas, Paris, 1959, p. 64, another cast illustrated pl. XII
Franco Russoli and Fiorella Minervino, L’Opera completa di Degas, Rizzoli, Milan, 1970, no. s42, p. 142
Charles W. Millard, The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, Princeton, 1976, no. 9, another cast illustrated
John Rewald, Degas Complete Sculpture, Catalogue Raisonné, San Francisco, 1990, no. II, ill. of the wax sculpture p. 46, another cast illustrated p. 47
Anne Pingeot, Degas’ Sculptures, Paris, 1991, no. 42, another cast illustrated
Sara Campbell, “A Catalogue of Degas’ Bronzes”, Apollo, August 1995, no. 402, no. 13, another cast illustrated p. 17
Joseph S. Czestochowski and Anne Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Bronzes, Memphis, 2002, no. 13, another cast illustrated p. 147
Suzanne Glover Lindsay, Daphne S. Barbour and Shelley G. Sturman, Edgar Degas Sculpture, Washington D.C., 2010, ill. of the wax sculpture p. 369
In 1919, two years following Edgar Degas’s death, his heirs authorized the cast in bronze of seventy-three sculptures in wax, plastiline and cork, which were found in the master’s studio. The work Horse at the Drinking Trough, presented herein, is undoubtedly the oldest preserved sculpture by Degas. One should also take into account that Degas seems to have always considered sculpture as a practice serving exclusively his painting. This fact is evidenced in the interview he gave in 1897: “I realized that to achieve an exactitude so perfect in the representation of animals that feeling of life is conveyed, one had to go into the three dimensions, not merely because the activity itself requires prolonged observation from the artist and more sustained attention, but also because this is an area in which approximations are unacceptable. [...] The only reason that I made wax figures of animals and humans was for my own satisfaction, not to take time off from painting or drawing, but in order to give my paintings and drawings greater expression, greater ardour and more life”.
When Degas modelled this figure entitled Horse at the drinking trough, he was mainly inspired by his numerous visits to the Longchamp racecourse. He was only guided by observation.
A photograph taken from the Horse at the drinking trough wax model, which was then casted in bronze, reveals what is “hidden from view”, namely the modelling structure and layout in the master’s studio. As we can see, the ground tilt is permitted by the simple placement of a small piece of wood below the back legs.
Whatever they be his sources of inspiration, whatever it be the technique he used or the medium he opted for, what remains clear is that Degas had been seeking all his life to capture the movement, freeze it, tame it. Whether it is, horses, dancers, or even women doing their toilet or the many members of his family he had asked, it is this balance in the movement, this search for stability in the moving which makes his work so uncommon and recognizable.