Gray’s Offers Rare Degas Bronze, Le Tub
Gray’s Auctioneers is pleased to announce the sale of a rare Hébrard foundry bronze sculpture by Edgar Degas, known as Le Tub.
Deba Gray, auctioneer and owner of Gray’s Auctioneers, immediately recognized the sculpture when she first discovered it in a warehouse in New York. What intrigued her was the fact that the sculpture’s bronze base had been violently removed and it seemed to have evidence of fire damage. Here begins the mystery that Ms. Gray set out to solve. She immediately thought that the bronze may have been stolen during wartime, and as such she consulted Art Lost Registry, who informed her that the bronze had not been reported as stolen or missing. Further research revealed that the owner had inherited the bronze from his father, who had purchased it from a New York City antique dealer 40 years earlier for $25.00. Neither the father nor the dealer were aware the bronze was by Edgar Degas because of the missing base, where the signature and foundry marks were located. The father was told that the damaged bronze had belonged to famed Broadway producer Billy Rose, and that it was damaged in a fire at his Mount Kisco estate in the late 1950’s. Billy Rose had an extensive art collection which was donated to the Israel Museum upon his death in 1966.
Despite the damage, the most important Degas elements remained- that being the girl in the bathing tub. The problem was the part of the base which was now missing contained all the information needed to authenticate the work. It includes the Degas signature, the foundry stamp and all the other important identification marks on the bronze. After researching various experts that could help authenticate the sculpture Ms. Gray found that Walter Maibaum is the leading authority on the subject and she contacted him. Mr. Maibaum has recently made a tremendous discovery in France; he has uncovered a great number of lifetime plaster sculptures by Degas which were completely unknown to previous scholars and experts. When learning of his discovery, the heirs of Edgar Degas authorized bronze castings from the plasters, and exhibitions of the bronzes will begin in Europe this November. Mr. Maibaum is currently writing a book on the discovery, DEGAS: Sculptures Uncovered-History Revealed which will be published in the spring of 2010.
Mr. Maibaum generously proposed that Deba Gray bring the sculpture to New York so that he and his colleague could examine the bronze side by side with another bronze which was known to be authentic. Much to her surprise, he told her that his colleague is Mrs. Clare Vincent, curator of European Sculpture at Metropolitan Museum of Art who has overseen the Degas bronzes in the museum’s collection for over 40 years. Ms. Gray was even happier to learn that he was able to arrange a side by side comparison of Gray’s bronze with the bronze in the Metropolitan’s collection. A few weeks later Ms. Gray brought the bronze to New York and the two experts made the comparison together. They consulted amongst themselves and agreed the bronze appeared to be an authentic cast made by the Hebrard foundry. Ms. Gray and her consigner were thrilled.
Now that the mystery was solved, another question remained- what is it worth? In November of 2008, Sotheby’s auctioned off a Le Tub bronze in perfect condition for $ 3,778,500.00. Gray’s will be offering this Le Tub bronze for $30,000 to $50,000 on November 14th at its 25th Fine Arts and Antique Auction.