Two Ballerinas

Pierre Carrier-Belleuse

French, 1851 - 1932

Two Ballerinas, 1893

  • Not On View

Pastel on paper mounted to canvas

Dimensions: 48 × 72 in. (121.9 × 182.9 cm)

Gift of Mrs. Frederick B. Miner, by exchange, 2007.122

The widespread appeal of ballet in the mid-nineteenth century made it a frequent subject for drawings. The spellbound maidens and spirits of popular fairy tales created an exciting context for the fast footwork, high jumps, and dizzying turns of a ballet dancer. In this pastel drawing, Pierre Carrier-Belleuse shows a quiet moment between two young dancers. While taking a break from their grueling practice schedule the girls are playing a game called “Pigs in the Pen,” which is similar to the game Jacks and is played with the ankle bones of a sheep.The theater offered young working-class girls an opportunity to escape a life of poverty. With any luck, a ballet dancer would make her stage performance and start earning money at the age of 14 or 15. Although an average dancer would earn the same as a seamstress, the exposure she got on the stage could spark the attention of a wealthy gentleman who could become her patron and open the door to a better life.

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