Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure')

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Women combing their hair, or having it combed, often appear in Degas’s work, and this painting is one of his boldest treatments of the subject. A maid, wearing her servant’s uniform, combs the hair of her seated mistress, who is not yet fully dressed. Pulled back by the force of the strokes, the mistress raises her right hand to her head as if to steady herself or hold her hair in place. The composition is sketched in with bold sweeps of the brush, and Degas mainly limits the colours to variations of a fiery orange-red painted over a creamy white ground, which is still visible on the left of the canvas. Some areas are more defined than others – the objects on the table, for example, look unfinished. Degas probably planned to work further on the painting, but it was never completed and remained in his studio.

The National Gallery, London



Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure')


about 1896


Oil on canvas


H 114.3 x W 146.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1937

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

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