Carlo Pellegrini, born in Capua in 1839, was a well-known portrait caricaturist. He settled in London in 1864, where he was an influential contributor to 'Vanity Fair'. He met Degas in London in the 1870s, and in about 1876-7 painted his portrait, inscribed 'à vous/Pellegrini' (to you/Pellegrini). Degas then painted Pellegrini's portrait as a return present, similarly inscribed.
Degas shows Pellegrini striking a comic attitude. The silhouetted figure placed in a narrow vertical format, and the exaggerated hand gesture, are characteristic features of Pellegrini's work. Here, however, the viewer looks down on the figure, and Degas has added the hints of a setting, which contrasts with Pellegrini's blank backdrops.
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