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Camille Laurens: La petite danseuse de quatorze ans

Who was the model for Edouard Degas’s world renowned sculpture of a ballet dancer? Camille Laurens embarks on a meticulous and sensitive enquiry.

Degas’s “Little Ballerina” has always been a presence for Camille Laurens. Here the novelist tells the story of the sculpture which has been exhibited in Paris, London, New York, Washington, Chicago, Copenhage, Dresden… but few know the identity of the model.

She looks into the childhood of Marie Van Goethem, born to Belgian parents, with an older sister who ended up as a courtesan, a younger sister who became a ballet teacher and a mother who died on the very premises of the Paris Opera. Dancing and prostitution. Revolution and the art world. Quite unintentionally, Marie would become one of the most discussed models, and was described as a “monkey” at the 1881 Salon des Indépendants exhibition.

How did Degas dare to make something beautiful of such an ugly child? And what mysterious connection was there between Degas and his subject, given that he kept the wax sculpture in his studio his whole life and never exhibited it? This enquiry ultimately leads Camille Laurens to a more personal quest.

Novelist, essayist and academic Camille Laurens has published some twenty books. In 2000, Dans ces bras-là won the Prix Fémina and the Prix Renaudot des Lycéens, and was translated into thirty languages. Her latest novel Who You Think I Am (Gallimard, 2016 / Other Press 2017) sold 50,000 copies in France.

La petite danseuse de quatorze ans
Camille Laurens
(Degas’s little ballerina by Camille Laurens)
Collection: La Bleue
Éditions Stock Paris
Parution: 01/09/2017
176 pages
Format:140 x 216 mm
EAN: 9782234069282
Prix:  €17.50

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