Ballet Dancers in Butterfly Costumes is a tempera and pastel piece produced in 1880. This piece shows two ballerinas, the one on the right is leaving the canvas and is represented in the foreground; so close to the viewer that her feet are also out of the composition. She wears a red and orange butterfly costume. These clothes are untraditional and not typical, neither for the traditional ballet presentations nor Degas’ pieces.
The abundance of details on her skirt is breathtaking. The vibrant yellow skirt has black lines that emulate a butterfly wing, splashed with darker orange dots. It’s possible to see the volume of the skirt and the transparency of the tutu. The corset is bright orange, almost red. She is pale white and has dark hair. Through the corner of her face, it’s possible to see the orange make up over her eyes. Her curly hair is tied back with red and orange flowers that match the dress and also has butterfly wings on her back. The colors and patterns on the wings follow the same style as the skirt. Her stockings are white.
The ballerina on the back is drawn in pink tones. Her skin is also very pale, almost merges with the light rosy pigment of the dress. She is adjusting her show, leaning against a wooden panel. Her floaty tutu skirt is pink and has red and orange flowers dappled around it. There is a larger flower ornament over her corset. She has ginger hair, and there are red and peach colored flowers locking up her hair.
The wooden panel on the left is brown, but the light shading of the piece is mostly composed of moss green tones. The panel is divided into geometrical squares, creating a good notion of perspective. This perspective is enhanced by a dark groove that runs along the wall on the grey floor. The background was drawn with vigorous strokes of several tones of green, and would possibly be the back landscape of the stage.
The composition of this artwork is complex and unusual, but it can be divided in several different ways and still look balanced. For instance, if we divide the piece in the middle vertically and horizontally, the flower arrangement in the back of the ballerina’s corset will be the exact connection of these lines.
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