Edgar Degas (Paris 1834–1917 Paris)
Adelchi Morbilli, ca. 1857
Graphite on off-white wove paper
9 5/8 × 6 1/2 in. (244 × 165 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
From 1856 to 1859, Degas was based in Italy, studying art from antiquity to the Renaissance and traveling around the country. In 1793, his grandfather, René-Hilaire Degas, had emigrated from France to Naples, where he established his banking business and his family, and between August and October 1857, the young Degas visited his family in Naples. While there, he produced a number of portraits—paintings and drawings—of his uncles, aunts, and cousins. Adelchi Morbilli (1837–1913) was the painter’s younger cousin. He was to become a prominent banker and the director of the Banca Nazionale in Naples. At the time of this drawing’s creation, Degas was under the influence of Ingres, whom he had met in Paris in 1855.
Curator's Personal Reflection
Speaker: Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator
There is something so poignant about Degas’s portraits of his family members. An artist most people think of as quintessentially French, Degas was in fact part Creole and part Italian, with relatives in southern Italy and Louisiana. I love the idea of this group of international cousins meeting in Naples or in New Orleans, with the young Degas sketching and painting them. Adelchi Morbilli is quite the young dandy, on the verge of embarking on a successful career as a banker. To me he looks slightly impatient, ready to jump up to go to a Neapolitan luncheon but curious as to how his Parisian cousin is drawing him—wondering if, in the final drawing, he will look as handsome and elegant as he wishes to appear.