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Repasseuses, Edgar Degas, c. 1884/86 - Musée d'Orsay | Oeuvre du mois | Le Musée Virtuel du Vin


Edgar Degas (1834-1917)  

ca. 1884/86

Oil on canvas, 76 x 81,5 cm

Musée d'Orsay, Paris




Although the theme of working life in painting was well-established in Holland as far back as the 17th century, this was not the case in France, where the topic was considered unworthy. It was not until the 18th century that painters began to portray unromanticized laboring scenes. It was also during this period that cheap red wines began to make their way into the market. They were consumed by laborers at work, as a refreshment, a tonic, and an encouragement. Both male and female workers drank wine in this way, be they Gustave Caillebotte’s The Floor Scrapers or the Edgar Degas’ Women Ironing.


Shown in the middle of the working day, the two exhausted laundry workers reflect the unromantic but tender attitude of the artist towards his working-class subjects. The image is incisive, but unpitying. Gestures emerge with a rare expressive force implying immediacy – the woman on the left yawns and stretches, holding in her hand a bottle of wine, while her colleague hunches doggedly over her work.


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