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Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando

Key facts
Full title Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando
Artist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Artist dates 1834 - 1917
Date made 1879
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 117.2 × 77.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1925
Inventory number NG4121
Location Room 44
Art route(s) B
Collection Main Collection
Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

The Cirque Fernando was built in 1875 near the Place Pigalle in Paris, close to where Degas lived. He saw Miss La La perform there several times. Originally named Olga, she was a mixed-race circus performer famous for her feats of strength.

Here, she is suspended by her teeth as she is hoisted up to the roof of the circus by a rope on a pulley. Her other acts included hanging upside down from a trapeze while clenching a chain, which supported a firing cannon, between her teeth. Degas places us among the audience, looking up at the spectacle above.

Painting an acrobat allowed Degas to combine his interest in modern life with his fascination with complicated poses. He made a number of preparatory studies in various media, paying particular attention to the complex construction of the roof, which fills the painting. The picture was shown at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1879.

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