The J. Paul Getty Museum

Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus

Object Details


Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus


Edgar Degas (French, 1834 - 1917)






Pastel on faded blue paper

Object Number:



46.4 × 29.8 cm (18 1/4 × 11 3/4 in.)

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Object Description

Edgar Degas captured the circus performer Miss Lala in her most thrilling act: clenching a bit between her teeth, she is hoisted slowly to the circus rafters. Her strength and concentration are conveyed by the diagonal sweep formed by her outstretched arms. The gestural strokes surrounding her body echo this diagonal. Degas's color palette heightens the dramatic effect; shades of electric blue contrast powerfully with Miss Lala's brown skin punctuated by a shock of black hair.

Miss Lala performed her feats of strength and agility at the Fernando Circus, which opened in northern Paris in 1875. The Circus was a popular destination for artists. In addition to Degas--who lived nearby--Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Georges Seurat each attended and painted the Circus. Degas was especially captivated by Miss Lala's arresting act and sketched her on successive nights in January 1879. This important study in pastel is one of several preparatory drawings that culminated in the artist's celebrated oil painting of Miss Lala's performance, now in the National Gallery, London. The pastel also reveals Degas's working process. For example, numerous pentimenti--especially in the thighs and right hand--show that Degas made adjustments to Miss Lala's pose on paper as she dangled above him.


Edgar Degas, French, 1834 - 1917 [sold, Degas estate sale, Paris, April 7, 1919, no. 44a to Jules Strauss]

1919 - 1924
by 1924

M. Knoedler & Co. (New York), founded 1846, dissolved 2011

Degas (March to April 1937)
  • Musée de l'Orangerie (Paris), March to April 1937
Degas: Peintre du Mouvement (June 9 to June 30, 1939)
  • Galerie André Weil (Paris), June 9 to June 30, 1939
Art in the Making: Degas (November 10, 2004 to January 30, 2005) (p. 85, p. 86 [ill.])
  • The National Gallery (London), November 10, 2004 to January 30, 2005
Degas at the Getty (March 7 to June 11, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 7 to June 11, 2006
Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800-1900 (June 5 to September 9, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 5 to September 9, 2007
Recent Acquisitions in Context (December 16, 2008 to March 8, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 2008 to March 8, 2009
Degas's Miss Lala au Cirque Fernando (February 15 to May 12, 2013)
  • The Morgan Library & Museum (New York), February 15 to May 12, 2013
Degas: Russian Dancers and the Art of Pastel (May 19 to October 11, 2015)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 19 to October 11, 2015
Posing Modernity: The Black Muse from Manet to Matisse and Beyond / Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse (October 24, 2018 to July 21, 2019)
  • Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University (New York), October 24, 2018 to February 10, 2019
Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




What Can Art Tell Us about Ourselves?

Lesson in which students compare vocations in 19th-century French artworks with those they might encounter in 21st-century Los Angeles.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science


Three/Five-Part Lesson