Degas' Plastic Work Displayed at Bulgarian National Gallery

Society » CULTURE | September 2, 2010, Thursday // 15:43| Views: | Comments: 5
Bulgaria: Degas' Plastic Work Displayed at Bulgarian National Gallery Image of the Edgar Degas Exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Sofia. Photo by BGNES

The Bulgarian National Art Gallery in Sofia is hosting an exhibition of what is said to be a significant part of Edgar Degas' sculptural oeuvre.

The exhibition will officially open Thursday at 18.30 EET and will last through October 29.

Consisting of 74 statues (out of around 150 ever created by the artist), it revolves around the themes of dance, horses and female dress – topics dear to Degas’ work as a whole.

The collection is owned by the M.T. Abraham Center for the Visual Arts in the USA and thus far has been shown only in Tel Aviv and Athens.

It features a bronze cast of Degas' "Little dancer of fourteen years," a wax sculpture which is the only statue that the French artist himself displayed while alive.

The exhibition is curated by former National Gallery director Boris Danailov. It is organized by the Embassy of France in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

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» To the forumComments (5)
***** - 5 Sep 2010 // 16:33:44

September 5, 2010

All so-called “bronzes," attributed to Edgar Degas, much less in the Bulgarian National Art Gallery in Sofia, are non-disclosed posthumous -forgeries-.

There are -no- exceptions. The dead don't sculpt.

On page 660 of the Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, -forgery- is defined as: "The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine."

None of these bronze forgeries were forged directly from the mixed-media models Edgar Degas created during his lifetime.

This is confirmed on page 609, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s published 1988 Degas catalogue, in his “A Note on Degas’s Bronzes” essay, the curator Gary Tinterow wrote: “The bronzes included in this exhibition, like those widely distributed throughout the world, are posthumous, second-generation casts of the original wax sculptures by Degas.”’

Edgar Degas never worked exclusively in wax but mixed media; cloth, wire, paint brush, plastine, wood and the like. If you tried to cast his mixed-media models into bronze they would burst into flames, destroying them.

This is confirmed in the National Gallery of Art’s published 1998 Degas at the Races catalogue. On page 180 in Daphne S. Barbour’s and Shelly G. Strum’s “The Horse in Wax and Bronze” essay, these authors wrote: “Not a single sculpture has been found to be made exclusively of wax, and none was intended to be sacrificed and melted during lost-wax casting.”

What that means is the Hebrard foundry had to make posthumous wax models for casting in bronze with their hands resulting in the models having their fingerprints not Degas. This perspective was confirmed to the art historian Jean Adhemar by the founder M. Palazzolo

Edgar Degas never signed his mixed-media models. On page 1387 in the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, the term -signature- is defined as: “A person’s name or mark written by that person or at the person’s direction.” Therefore, the posthumous application of Degas' signature to these bronzes would be considered counterfeit.

The dead don't sign.

Finally, Association of Art Museum Directors' ethical guidelines on sculptural reproductions state any transfer into new materials unless specially condoned by the artist is to be considered counterfeit and should not be acquired or exhibited as works of art.

These forgeries could not even be sold in museum gift shops because they would violate their professional practices.

Gary Arseneau
artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
Fernandina Beach, Florida

jingsmaboab - 5 Sep 2010 // 15:17:17

There is nothing uniquely |Bulgarian about this situation, so calm down everyone. As the first poster points out in his blog, and as the web site of the US collection (owner of these bronzes) both point out, ALL (except one) Degas bronzes were made posthumously from models or moulds supposedly left behind in the artist's studio after death. His relatives were involved in casting the first of these Degas bronzes at a foundry in Paris after his death.

Whether this counts as "forgery" or not is debatable. Arguably it misses the point. Did Michelangelo create all his works from his own hand? Rodin? The truth is most artists, both in the past and now, employed assistants to help make or complete their artworks. So in many cases, an artist's signature is just a mark of authenticity, like a brand name. It may not mean they actually made the whole thing themselves from start to finish.

Pantudi - 4 Sep 2010 // 13:53:22

"...get a cultured Bulgarian from Sofia to be a minister of culture...."

Good one Nellie, good one, we don't want bumpkins from, say, Rousse or Plovdiv, right. Sofia is the cultiral capital of the world.

Nellieherself - 3 Sep 2010 // 21:11:35

FORGERIES?!? You don't say!


What do you expect from that Turkish vermin "Minister of Culture" Vezdi Rashidov in control of Bulgarian culture? He knows nothing about western art and culture, he is a Turkish vermin. Send him back to Kurdzali and get a cultured Bulgarian from Sofia to be a minister of culture. What an embarrassment for Bulgaria!

***** - 3 Sep 2010 // 16:54:16

September 3, 2010

Edgar Degas died in 1917.

As tragic as his death may have been for those promoting and profiting from
this 2010 exhibition of non-disclosed 21st-century forgeries at the Bulgarian's
National Art Gallery in Sofia , Edgar Degas died in the 20th-century.

The dead don't sculpt.

To learn more about this 20th/21st-century fraud, link to

Gary Arseneau
artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
Fernandina Beach, Florida

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