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Degas was the eldest of five children and often enlisted his younger siblings as sitters for his earliest experiments with portraiture. Marguerite is said to have been his favourite, and was about 14 years old when this portrait was painted. Degas admired her fine singing voice, and she bore a striking resemblance to him, with her distinctive nose and slightly asymmetrical eyes. Despite the close bond between them, the subdued palette and dark background lend the image a sombre mood, and pay homage to the severest traditions of European portraiture.
oil on canvas
33 x 25 cm
gift from Kathleen Epstein, 1973