Ludovic Halévy once co-authored a play, La Cigale, in which one of the characters was clearly based on Edgar Degas.
This print comes from a series of more than 30 monotypes that Degas planned as illustrations for La Famille Cardinal by the artist’s friend Ludovic Halévy. The satirical stories revolve around two young dancers at the Opéra, Pauline and Virginie Cardinal, and their procuress mother. In late 19th-century Paris, the ballet was the profession of lower-class girls and young women who were available for sexual hire. Here, in the opening scene, Halévy, the first-person narrator, meets with Madame Cardinal in the coulisses (wings) of the Opéra to arrange for a private rendezvous with one of her daughters. The dancers, whose sexual availability is the subtext of the composition, are conspicuously absent.
Conversation: Ludovic Halévy and Madame Cardinal (The Conversation) for "La Famille Cardinal" by Ludovic Halévy
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