Rare Degas sculpture exhibit opens in Bulgaria

A rare exhibit of 74 bronze sculptures by French painter Edgar Degas opened Thursday at Sofia's National Art Gallery, the first ever in Bulgaria of the Impressionist artist's work.

The exhibit, which includes a copy of Degas's famous "The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen," presents a complete set of all 74 sculptures that Degas originally carved out of wax, clay and plastiline and which were later cast in bronze by his family, US curator Walter Maibaum said.

The exposition's stop in Sofia is the third after Athens last November and Tel Aviv in March, he said. It runs until October 29.

Famous for his Impressionist paintings of dancers, Degas was also interested in movement as a sculptor, choosing dancing figures and prancing or trotting horses as his subjects.

But none of his sculptures was displayed in public before his death in 1917 with the exception of "The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen."

The wax figure - wearing a real bodice, stockings, shoes, a tulle skirt, and a horsehair wig with a satin ribbon - drew fierce criticism from Degas's contemporaries for its rough realism.

It was only after his death that about 150 wax or plastiline sculptures were found in his studio.

Nearly all had reached various stages of deterioration and the artist's family decided to cast copies of 74 of them in order to preserve them. Some 29 reproductions were made on average of each of these sculptures, according to Maibaum.

Apart from the collection on display in Sofia, which is entirely owned by US foundation the M.T. Abraham Center for the Visual Arts, only four museums in the world possess an almost complete set of Degas bronze sculptures, with only one or two of the 74 figures missing, Maibaum said.

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