Portrait of Victoria Dubourg, ca.1866-68
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Oil on canvas
81.3 x 64.8 cm
Toledo Museum of Art
image by me.
One of my favorite paintings at TMA is not what one expects from Degas. While I've always thought Degas paintings were nice to look at, I was never a fan of the focused subject matter of the ballerina (I've learned there is more, but we get so blinded by the popular). This painting shifts far from that focus. There is something intriguing about this wonderful portrait. It is one of those works that simply caught my eye as I was on my way to look at something else, now I can't walk by it without giving it a little attention.
Paintings can be realistic in that they give us a faithful reproduction of what one may see in real life, but this oftentimes is only topical in its realism. Portraits are often dolled up, the sitter overly aware that this is a portrait, they looking what they may consider their best (this a choice of the artist and/or the sitter). Here, with her relaxed position, her gaze towards the viewer, she could be simply be listening to a companion's story or just shifting leaning in because someone called her name. I think this portrait achieves an additional layer of realism, one in which you can really get a taste of this woman, who she might be. Victoria Dubourg is a fellow painter )of flowers) as well as the wife of Henri Fantin-Latour another peer of Degas.