Collection Online
Portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman
(Portrait de femme)
(c. 1876-1880)

oil on canvas
46.3 × 38.2 cm
inscribed in black paint u.r.: Degas
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1937
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
Late 19th & early 20th Century Paintings & Decorative Arts Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

Collection of Dikran Kélékian (1868–1951) (dealer-collector), Paris and New York, by 1920, until 1930s; included in Dikran Kélékian sale, Paris, 1920, no. 29 (passed in); with Paul Rosenberg (dealer-collector), Paris, before 1937; from where purchased, on the advice of Sir Sydney Cockerell, for the Felton Bequest, 1937.

Exhibited: Stedlijke Museum, Amsterdam, 1930 no. 140, lent by Dikran Kélékian; Degas: Portraitiste, Sculpteur, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, 1931, no. 59, Portrait de femme, lent by Dikran Kélékian.

On the surface of this painting we see a portrait of a woman who has been has been captured with deft, quickly applied brush-strokes that accord with Degas’s painting style of the late 1870s. Beneath this portrait, however, and running in the opposite direction, can be detected the shadowy suggestions of a second painting, also a portrait of a woman. Technical examination has revealed this to be stylistically reminiscent of a number of depictions of women undertaken by Degas in the mid-1860s. It is not known why Degas painted over this first portrait at a later date. Exact identification of the women depicted in both paintings also remains elusive.


The frame (a Louis XIV variant) on Degas’, Portrait of a woman, at the time of acquisition by the Felton Bequest in 1937, is a type associated with the Barbizon painters though it is heavier and more elaborate than the nominal ‘Barbizon’ frame. A number of these frames appear on paintings from the second half of the C19th. in the NGV collection.
Degas is well known for having designed and favoured picture frames of particular styles. The flat section frame constructed for the painting in 2016 is based on the passé partout frame with a reeded back edge that was designed by Degas and appears on his 'Laundress (Silhouette)' (1884, Musee d'Orsay) and 'The Collector of Prints' (1866, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) among many other works and was also used by other artists of the period including Signac' 'La bouee rouge' (1895, Musee d'Orsay).
It has previously been used on the reframing of John Russell’s Portrait of Dr Will Maloney.
Considerable effort went into toning the frame in relation to the painting. Degas appears to have been at pains to create a harmonious relationship between painting and frame. Frames would be toned or painted to provide this harmony.
The frame for Portrait of a woman was successively pushed back in tone until it formed an ensemble with the painting.

Reproduction - crafted by the NGV