In 1879 Degas made this preparatory drawing of Miss La La, an acrobat of mixed European and African parentage. Renowned for her agility, she performed throughout Europe. This daring perspective shows La La suspended from the rafters of the circus by a rope connected to a bit between her teeth. She was a popular act at the Cirque Fernando which was close to Degas’s studio in Montmartre. In addition to her appearances in Paris she toured England, performing in London and at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester. Rumours circulated that La La was an African princess sold into slavery so as to exoticise her and increase ticket sales. Her real name may have been Olga Kaira, born in Stettin, Germany (now Poland). Degas himself was of mixed race as he had a Creole mother, and visited his American relatives in New Orleans in the 1872.
Inscriptions / Translations: Inscribed and dated u.l.: Miss La La/ 25 Janv. 79. Sale Stamp 1.1: Degas
Notes: Exhibited: 'Degas', Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., USA, 1931 (19a); 'A Century of French Drawings: Prud'hon to Picasso', Matthiesen Gallery, London, UK, 1938 (44); 'Nineteenth Century French Drawings', etc., British Institute of Adult Education, London, UK, 1943 (13); 'Drawings by Degas', City Art Museum, St. Louis, Miss., USA, 20 January 1967 - 26 February 1967; 'Drawings by Degas', Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA, 10 March 1967 - 30 April 1967; 'Drawings by Degas', Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota, USA, 16 May 1967 - 25 June 1967; 'Exposition Edgar Degas', Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, 23 September 1976 - 3 November 1976; 'Exposition Edgar Degas', Kyoto Municipal Museum, Kyoto, Japan, 7 November 1976 - 10 December 1976; 'Exposition Edgar Degas', Fukuoka Culture Center Museum, Fukuoka, Japan, 19 December 1976 - 16 January 1977; 'Edgar Degas: Pastels, Oils, Drawings', Kunsthalle, Tübingen, Germany, 14 January - 25 March 1984; 'French Impressionism: Treasures from the Midlands', Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 7 June 1991 - 18 Aug 1991; 'Art in the Making: Degas', The National Gallery, London, UK, 10 November 2004 - 30 January 2005; 'Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900', Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK, 01 October 2005 - 08 January 2006; 'The Barber Goes North', Abbot Hall and Art Gallery, Kendal, UK, 15 October 2010 - 15 December 2010; 'Degas, Miss Lala and the Cirque Fernando', The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, USA, 15 February - 12 May 2013