Degas painted the “Orchestra Musicians” in 1872 and revised it a few years later, enlarging it and turning the horizontal format into a vertical. He also overpainted parts of the initial composition. This manner of proceeding is encountered frequently in Degas’s œuvre.
Degas added a piece of fabric to the upper edge of the canvas. He attached it by gluing the two adjacent pieces onto another textile support. At the seam, a shallow horizontal groove is visible on the surface of the paint layer approximately at the level of the dancers’ waists. The two different types of fabric are clearly discernible in the X-ray image: the lower section shows brighter here, and the individual threads of the canvas are distinctly recognizable. The upper quarter, added later, appears substantially darker.
The two illustrations both show the same section of the painting ‒ the section now depicting a cellist and, at his left, a male figure with a wind instrument. In the X-ray, however, only the musician on the left is visible with what is presumably a bassoon. When Degas revised the painting, he overpainted the bassoon with the cellist – a grey-haired, bearded figure – and the pegbox of his cello.
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