Edgar Degas (1834–1917) is perhaps best remembered for his pictures of women bathing and of ballet dancers. The awkward posing, the physical unattractiveness and the voyeuristic viewpoints that are characteristics of many of his later works have given him a reputation for misogyny. A lesser known aspect of Degas' work concerns portraiture. In the earlier part of his career he painted many portraits of his family and friends which are remarkable for their psychological insights as well as their technical and compositional mastery. One of the finest is the portrait of the Bellelli family which he started in Florence in 1858 and appears to have worked on intermittently until 1867. Its large size (200 x 250 cm), the length of time in execution and the number of preparatory studies all point to its significance in the artist's eyes. Despite this, scholars doubt that it was ever exhibited during Degas∗ lifetime and was discovered with considerable surprise in his studio following his death (Boggs, 1994).
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