The Millinery Shop



The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas

Good morning guys, as you can see I’m already back trying to keep my promise of posting more regularly. Yesterday here in Milan there was the VFNO but unfortunately (as every year) I couldn’t go because I was sick (I had my wisdom tooth removed last week and it still hurts so much!). So, rather than complain and feel sad about it, I decided to share with you a beautiful painting by Edgar Degas which I think relates to the ongoing Milan Fashion Week.

My idea is to share every now and then some paintings or sculptures and write down their description, in this way if you like art (I do!) you can contribute to the discussion and let me know what you think about the artist and the artworks or simply get an insight of the artworks.

So, I wanted to start this little new experiment with a painting I didn’t know much about, so, I have to be honest, I had to search for more information, but I liked it at first sight. Surprise, surprise it’s not the usual subject of the dancers by Degas! The artwork is “The Millinery Shop” by Edgar Degas which is located at the Art Institute of Chicago. As you can see from the painting, a woman, the milliner, is checking on a new hat she’s probably made. She hasn’t noticed we are looking at her from above and she’s completely immersed in her job. All around her there are wonderful hats with beautiful decorations. The three hats in the foreground are quite clear: even though the brushstrokes are slightly undefined, the hats are perfectly recognizable. However, the two hats that lie in the background are less visible for two reasons: first because the brushstrokes are less defined and second because the colors Degas used blend with the brown of the table and the floor.

By a quick look at the painting we immediately catch what is happening, the main scene, while the background is completely blurred. We can imagine there’s a window or a glass door because of the light blue, but we can’t be totally sure about our assumption. And that’s the beauty of art: you need to use your imagination in order to go further and give a sense to what you’re looking at. In the Millinery Shop, Degas focuses our attention on the woman and her hats, her beautiful and refined creations, while the background is less relevant and observers can use their imagination to define it.

The painting was made between 1879 and 1886, a period during which Degas made a lot of paintings portraying the work of the milliners. He was a very refined artist, he wasn’t linked to a specific artistic movement; of course he had some influences from the Impressionists, but he was not a member of the group. He was more conventional, he worked in his studio and he liked to portray the vibrant life of the bourgeoisie.

I have chosen this specific painting because I thought it linked to a fashion theme which is perfect for this week! In the 19th century the role of the milliners had a social relevance: it was chic and trendy to go to the millinery shop and try on different hats, maybe even asking for a personal one. Women from the middle-class loved to buy and wear hats when they went to the city, went shopping or while visiting someone. A hat was an unavoidable accessory for every elegant woman. Moreover, I love the colors of the hats, their decorations and the slim figure of the milliner. It’s a painting that is portraying life, it’s portraying the habits of an entire class and a specific type of fashion.

This is it for now, I hope you liked this very brief insight into Degas’ painting and see you soon with more beautiful artworks.



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