Edgar Degas horse bronze carries pre-auction estimate nudging $US1.5 million

Cheval se cabrant could fetch up to $US1.5 million at auction. Photo: Christie's
Cheval se cabrant could fetch up to $US1.5 million at auction. Photo: Christie’s

An Edgar Degas horse bronze could fetch up to $US1.5 million when it is offered at auction in London next week.

The bronze, which stands 31 centimeters tall, was executed in wax by Degas in the mid-late 1880s and 1890s. It was cast in bronze at the A.A. Hébrard foundry in 1920 and 1921.

A run of 20 was made, marked A to T, plus two reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder.

The work will be offered at auction on June 27 at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale.

The work, entitled Cheval se cabrant (Riding Horse) carries a pre-auction estimate of £900,000 to £1.2 million ($US1,134,900 to $US1,513,200).

The auction house describes the work as one of Degas’ most expressive, finely rendered and formally sophisticated sculptural representations of the horse.

Other examples of this dynamic portrayal of a rearing horse now reside in museum collections across the world, including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Norton Simon Museum in California.

Degas, an adept rider, was extremely familiar with horses and often frequented the racetrack at Longchamps.

By the mid 1870s, he had become obsessed by the depiction of horses, using this theme as a means of exploring movement in both his painting and sculpture.

Manipulating the highly pliable wax over improvised armatures, Degas explored the natural movement of horses while at the same time pursuing this same theme with his modelled dancing figures.

Degas was so absorbed by these equine figures that in 1888 he gave them priority over his pastel series of bathers. He wrote to Albert Bartholomé: “I have not yet made enough horses. The women must wait in their basins.”

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