Degas – Manet, and the Mystery of Madame

In 1868, Edgar Degas painted a portrait as a gift for his friend, Edouard Manet, which depicted M. Manet and his wife in their livingroom, Monsieur lounging on the couch, Madame playing the piano. “For reasons still unknown,” as the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it in notes to a recent exhibit, Manet sliced his wife’s profile out of the canvas, so that the painting, as it exists today, is horribly mutilated.

Degas reclaimed the gift, angry, and it hung prominently in his apartment for the rest of his life. In his later years, he hoped to restore the excised portion, but he died before he could.

We’ve done it for him.

It’s not what Degas could or would have accomplished, obviously. And so it is not the restoration of a great piece of art.

It’s just the restoration of what must have been a nice moment.

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