The Little Milliners (1882) by Edgar Degas

The Little Milliners - Edgar Degas - 1882

Artwork Information

TitleThe Little Milliners
ArtistEdgar Degas
Art MovementImpressionism

About The Little Milliners

“The Little Milliners” is a genre painting by Edgar Degas, created in 1882. The artwork is rendered in pastel and is associated with the Impressionist movement. Impressionism is known for its emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, and inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience. Degas was a prominent figure in this movement, often exploring themes related to Parisian life.

The artwork portrays a scene of two young women engaged in millinery tasks, that is, the making or selling of women’s hats. The setting is most likely a hat shop or a workshop where these milliners—hat makers or sellers—work. On the left, a woman is carefully examining or adjusting a hat adorned with a large bow and feather trim, her focus and attention to detail palpable in her expression and the delicate way she handles the object. To her right, another woman is holding a hat by its rim, showing it either to her companion for an opinion or preparing to add finishing touches. The hats serve as focal points, rich in texture and color, perhaps illustrating the fashion and craftsmanship of the era.

The background features vertical stripes, suggesting wallpaper or decorative paneling, and gives an impression of a modest interior. The choice of pastel medium allows for soft yet vibrant color representation, vital to capturing the nuances of light and material texture in the scene. Degas’ skillful use of this medium contributes to the overall impressionistic quality of the artwork, where the focus on the play of light and shadow takes precedence over precise detail. Through these elements, Degas invites the viewer to glimpse into the daily life of these little milliners, underlining the significance of their artisanal work within the context of 19th-century Parisian society.

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