About Marie van Goethem

After seeing this sculpture in the Australian National Gallery in Canberra some years ago it revived my interested in Degas' sculpture and in particular the girl who posed for him. Marie van Goethem. From all accounts Marie was a young girl with dreams like any other teenage girl of her time but the reality of her life was far from pleasant.

Her relationship with Degas has long been debated without a resolution but one thing is sure, Marie name is almost completely unknown by the millions of people who have seen and know this sculpture as "Degas' little bronze dancer - age fourteen"

By calling my painting "van Goethem's little dancer" I hope to restore some of the prominence that rightfully belongs to Marie.

Here are some of known facts about Marie’s life:-

 

 

Birth: Jun. 7, 1865

Death: 1900


Dancer and model for Degas' Little Dancer. Daughter of a Belgian laundress and tailor, was born in the 9e arrondissement of Paris as one of three sisters. She was named after her deceased sister who died at the age of eighteen days. At sometime the father of Marie died. The mother of Marie and her sisters moved to a stone apartment building at 'Rue Notre-Dame de Lorette' called 'Place Breda' near the studio of Degas at 'Rue Saint-Georges'. Marie's mother became a laundress; this was a common job for the mother of a ballet dancer. Marie and her sisters became students at the Paris Opera Ballet school and later performed in roles of extras with the company. The young dancers were called 'Petits Rats'. By performing for the Opera she contributed to the income of the family. Degas came more frequent to the ballet performances at the Paris Opera House and created some of the first behind the scenes images of dancers. The relationship between Marie van Goethem and Edgar Degas is one of debate. It was usual for 1880 that the 'Petits Rats' of the Opera of Paris seeked protectors from among the wealthy visitors at the backdoor of the opera.
By posing for artists Marie and her sisters probably earned up to 6 or 10 francs per sitting. Furthermore, it is suggested that the mother of Marie prostituted her daughters to the regular visitors of the opera. Marie's dance career ended at the age of seventeen, a result of missing many dance classes. Marie became a prostitute and was arrested for pick-pocketing one of her customers. No record of Marie's marriage, possible children, or death has been found.


 

Burial:
Body lost or destroyed
Specifically: Marie would have died in poverty and buried in an un-marked grave

 

Maree's painting and more of my work can be seen at