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Image of ‘Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study’ by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, about 1886.

‘Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study’ by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, about 1886

The subject of this painting, Hélène Rouart, was the daughter of Degas’s lifelong friend, the wealthy industrialist, painter and collector, Henri Rouart. Degas regularly dined at the Rouarts’s, and first painted the young Hélène sitting on her father’s knee in the 1870s.

In this painting, she is around 22 years old. Hélène is standing in her father’s study, in the family home in the Rue de Lisbonne in Paris. Originally Hélène’s mother was to be included in the painting, but she was omitted, perhaps because of ill-health.

In this portrait, the father’s presence is evoked through the huge chair and the desk on which piles of papers and books await his return. The other objects in the room tell us that her father was a collector - three Egyptian wood statues in a glass case, a red and gold Chinese wall-hanging, a drawing by Millet, and an early oil study by Corot of the Bay of Naples.

Degas did not finish this painting, and it was never given to the Rouart family. It was found in the studio at his death.

© The National Gallery, London

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