Little Dancer Aged Fourteen
This absorbing, heartfelt work uncovers the story of the real dancer behind Degas's now-iconic sculpture, and the struggles of late nineteenth-century Parisian life. She is famous throughout the world, but how many know her name? You can admire her figure in Washington, Paris, London, New York, Dresden, or Copenhagen, but where is her grave? We know only her age, fourteen, and the work that she did--because it was already grueling work, at an age when children today are sent to school. In the 1880s, she danced as a "little rat" at the Paris Opera, and what is often a dream for young girls now wasn't a dream for her. She was fired after several years of intense labor; the director had had enough of her repeated absences. She had been working another job, even two, because the few pennies the Opera paid weren't enough to keep her and her family fed. She was a model, posing for painters or sculptors--among them Edgar Degas.Drawing on a wealth of historical material as well as her own love of ballet and personal experiences of loss, Camille Laurens presents a compelling, compassionate portrait of Marie van Goethem and the world she inhabited that shows the importance of those who have traditionally been overlooked in the study of art.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen Details

TitleLittle Dancer Aged Fourteen
Author
ReleaseNov 20th, 2018
PublisherOther Press (NY)
ISBN-139781590519585
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Cultural, France

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen Review

  • Cat
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoy works by Degas! Receiving this book was a real joy!This short read is a bio on Marie Genevieve van Goethem, who modeled for Degas to earn extra money. She was a young dancer for the Paris Opera, but did not advance very far in the profession. It didn't pay very well either. The story also tells of her family and the poverty they suffered. One really never thinks about the models used in paintings and sculptures, so finding books written about them is really very fascinating. This one is I enjoy works by Degas! Receiving this book was a real joy!This short read is a bio on Marie Genevieve van Goethem, who modeled for Degas to earn extra money. She was a young dancer for the Paris Opera, but did not advance very far in the profession. It didn't pay very well either. The story also tells of her family and the poverty they suffered. One really never thinks about the models used in paintings and sculptures, so finding books written about them is really very fascinating. This one is well researched, but even someone not versed in art will enjoy the tale. It's a good one!
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    I began thinking it was an imagination of the life of the model. I found, rather, a careful and thoughtful thesis delving into the relationships of artist, model, and sculpture. We meet Marie and Degas in their parallel lives and their respective roles in society. That sounds very academic, but the book rather creates a nebulus and then finds a spark of truth, I think.Fascinating read; drags a bit in the middle, and then really takes off. Stick it out until the end - it's worth it.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    Really more of a lengthy essay than a biography of the dancer. Interesting about the nature of art both then and now, with a lot to think about in terms of class that feels contemporary (not in a good way)
  • Marie
    January 1, 1970
    I received an uncorrected ARC in exchange for an honest review.Rating: 3.8 / 5In Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece, Camille Laurens explores the story behind the girl who posed for Edgar Degas’ famous Little Dancer sculpture. We learn her name, Marie Genevieve van Goethem, and gain insight into the life of a “little rat” at the Paris Opera. Not much is known about her - her time spent working for very little wages at the Opera, posing for artists like Degas, I received an uncorrected ARC in exchange for an honest review.Rating: 3.8 / 5In Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece, Camille Laurens explores the story behind the girl who posed for Edgar Degas’ famous Little Dancer sculpture. We learn her name, Marie Genevieve van Goethem, and gain insight into the life of a “little rat” at the Paris Opera. Not much is known about her - her time spent working for very little wages at the Opera, posing for artists like Degas, and what became of her after. Laurens quickly and vividly paints the picture of what van Goethem would have encountered struggling in late 19th century Paris as part of the young, working class poor.The book was more along the lines of a very long essay that I could have seen published in, for example, a journal for the arts. For such a short novel, I felt it was very well-researched, though I am no expert in Parisian or art history, and easily digestible for someone not familiar with the Little Dancer sculpture. Not only did I get a sense of the history behind Degas, as the famous artist, but I appreciated that Laurens took to telling the side of the story of those often overlooked in artwork. The book opened my eyes to the not-so-pretty history of the Paris Opera and impressions of those spectators who initially viewed the sculpture in the context of Parisian attitudes at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed how Laurens contributed pieces of herself and her experiences to the story, which I think made it easier for me to establish an emotional connection to the Little Dancer. Though I liked the book, I did feel at times that it was a bit disorganized or hard to track where certain parts were headed, like following along with Laurens as she conducted her research. I can understand though that some readers may be able to better appreciate making discoveries along with the narrator.
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