In its day, audiences were astounded and shocked by the hyper-realism of Edgar Degas's sculpture of a defiant 14-year-old girl ballet dancing. The wax figure - one of Paris Opera Ballet's "little rats" - dressed in real silk and tulle tutu, was first exhibited at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition of 1881 in Paris. Jaws dropped.
More than a century later and Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans is one of the most celebrated sculptures of the modern age - and it will again be in the spotlight as one of the highlights of Sotheby's next big London impressionist and modern art sale.
Sotheby's senior director, Philip Hook said, "It is one of the three or four great sculptural images of the last two centuries besides You've got Rodin's The Kiss and Rodin's The Thinker."
The critic JK Huysmans said: "M Degas has knocked over the traditions of sculpture, like he has long been doing with paintings. At once refined and barbaric ... this statuette is the only truly modern attempt I know in sculpture."
Hook said there was an enduring quality to the sculpture. "It is a wonderful pose. Not only is it balletic but also there is a lot of character in that girl, the way her head is back, she is slightly defiant."
It was only after Degas's death in 1917 that the sculpture was cast in bronze with most of those editions now owned by museums, including the Tate in the UK, the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Only a handful are thought to be in private hands and the last to sell at auction was owned by the businessman John Madejski and went for £13.2m in 2009. The sculpture Sotheby's is auctioning comes with an estimate of £10m-£15m.
Now, however, the sculpture has been reimagined into a musical theater spectacle, directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman; the all-singing, all-dancing production opened October 25 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with aspirations of heading to Broadway in 2015.
It will be sold at Sotheby's impressionist and modern art sale on 24 June, an event that carries the auction house's highest ever London sale estimate of £140m-£203m. That is a reflection of the sky-high prices that continue to be set at the top end of the art auction market with more buyers, particularly from China, Russia and Brazil, joining the competition for the rarest pieces. ?The Guardian