Degas Ballerina Bronze Expected to Sell for Up to $17 Million

The sale is a rare opportunity to acquire an icon of Impressionist art.

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An iconic sculpture of a young ballet dancer by French Impressionist Edgar Degas could sell for up to 12 million pounds ($17 million) when it's auctioned off in London today, according to British auction house Sotheby's. The bronze cast is one of only a handful remaining in private collections. The sale represents an incredible opportunity to acquire a rare piece of Impressionist art.

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image for Luxe Life

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, or Little Dancer of Fourteen Years, is a bronze figure of a young ballerina with her hands clasped behind her back and her head tilted up. Degas's model, the daughter of a Belgian tailor and laundress, was a ballet student in the Paris Opéra named Marie van Goethem. Degas used many of these dancers as a source of inspiration.

The sculpture was originally made in wax, circa 1880, before it was cast in 1922 in bronze. Degas clothed the figure in real silk, tulle, and gauze and a horsehair wig tied with a silk ribbon. Sotheby's says it "is one of the most ambitious and iconic of Degas's works and a groundbreaking sculpture from the Impressionist period."

Several of the other casts are in major international museum collections, including the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, London's Tate Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Other works for sale at Sotheby's auction of Impressionist and modern art include Le Jardin d e Maubuisson by Camille Pissarro, which is expected to go for up to 3 million pounds, and Amedeo Modigliani's oil painting Cariatide, which could fetch as much as 8 million pounds.

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  • Kimberly Castro

    Kimberly Castro is the managing editor of Money and Health at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, circle her on Google+, or email her at kcastro@usnews.com.