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Dancing Girl with Tambourine
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
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This picture, together with its companion piece Dancing Girl with Castanets (also in the National Gallery’s collection), was made to decorate the dining room of the Paris apartment of one of Renoir’s most important clients, Maurice Gangnat. Of the two dancers, this figure has the more static pose. She stands with her weight slightly on her back foot, as though she is more focused on tapping out the rhythm on her tambourine while the other woman dances with her castanets. She taps only lightly, using her fingertips rather than the heel of the hand.

Renoir used Georgette Pigeot, a dressmaker who often posed for him, as a model for the figure. Her flowing costume shimmers with colour, and, like her counterpart’s, has elements of oriental or near-Eastern style, not only in the short, gold-coloured bodice and blue and gold slippers, but in what seem to be her harem pants. These loose trousers tied above the ankle became fashionable in Paris around this time.

Key facts
Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Artist dates 1841 - 1919
Full title Dancing Girl with Tambourine
Series Pair of Dancing Girls with Musical Instruments
Date made 1909
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 155 x 64.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1961
Inventory number NG6317
Location in Gallery Room 41
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Pair of Dancing Girls with Musical Instruments

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These two pictures of dancers in exotic costumes are near life-size. They were were made as part of the decorations of an apartment at 24 Avenue de Friedland in central Paris, which belonged to Maurice Gangnat, a wealthy steel magnate and art collector and one of Renoir’s most discerning clients. Made to hang on either side of a mirror above the fireplace in the dining room, they belong to a tradition of decorative art used to enliven architectural features with painted figures, often in poses which mimicked sculptural forms.

The paintings were made late in Renoir’s career, when he was 67 or 68 years old, though as a youthful apprentice he had trained as a decorative artist. The costumes of both dancers have oriental – or near-Eastern – overtones, especially the slippers and short gold-coloured bodices, and the harem pants worn by the woman in Dancing Girl with Tambourine.

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