Les Cousins du peintre (c.1868-1870)

Degas, Edgar (1834-1917)

Les Cousins du peintre (Double Portrait, The Cousins of the Painter)
Oil on canvas, 58 x 75 cm
Wadsworth AtheneumHartford

This portrait of Edgar Degas’s Italian cousins, Camilla and Elena Montejasi-Cicerale, is one of several that he made of his family. While the similarities in dress and countenance identify the two girls as sisters, Degas also presented them as distinct individuals. Their contrasting poses underline their different personalities. Elena, at the left, looks boldly out at the viewer, and Camilla turns shyly away. The slightly blurred definition of their facial features, especially those of Camilla, is evocative of early photography. With a restrained palette of mainly red, black, and white and a simple composition, Degas achieved a timeless portrait. As a young student in the mid-1850s, he had trained himself by copying Renaissance paintings at the Louvre in Paris, where he was particularly struck by a double portrait with a similar composition. (WA)