The structure of this sculpture was inspired by the parfleche (pronounced “par-flesh”) containers and travois (pronounced “tra-voy” or “trav-wa”) that were used by Native American tribes from the Plains. A travois was typically made from tipi poles, and would have been pulled by a horse or dog. Nomadic tribes used them to transport their belongings, which were often stored in parfleches. This word is thought to have come from the French words for “to parry (defend),” parer, and “arrow,” fleche, and originally referred to rawhide shields or body armor.
Although Berthe’s early style was more traditional due to her formal training, she became heavily influenced by the unconventional and modern approach to art espoused by Édouard Manet and of the later Impressionists. For this painting, Berthe may have completed part of it en plein air, or outside and onsite. Here, In this painting, Berthe’s loose brushwork and vibrant color palette work together as she attempted to capture the effect of dappled light filtering through the trees into the garden.
While living and working in Paris, Degas frequently attended the Paris Opera, and became intrigued with the performers and musicians he saw there, including ballet dancers. Dancers became some of Degas’s favorite subject matter, as they provided a way to investigate movement and his love of materials. He rendered them in charcoal, oil paint, prints, pastel, watercolor, wax, and clay. Degas would often portray the dancers rubbing sore muscles, stretching, gossiping, or prepping for a number on stage. Few of his works show the dancers actually on stage performing.