Recently, curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan decided that The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, a sculpture created by Edgar Degas in 1881, was due for a fashion makeover.
The Costume Institute’s conservator, Glenn Petersen, was presented with the challenge of updating the condition of the small dancer’s tutu, which curators thought looked tattered and dirty after all these years. This was actually how it was supposed to look, but not according to Degas. (Or the Met, for that matter.) The skirt has been replaced at least twice before, and therefore the look of its new one was open to interpretation.
“If we can bring something to it now that makes the skirt really look harmonious with the sculpture and shows that we’ve paid attention to the way that Degas depicted dancers and the sense of movement, that will really add to the way that people view the sculpture,” Petersen says in a video depicting his process. “That’s my goal.”
Watch a full video detailing the tutu’s conservation, below. You can also see it in person at “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now),” which is on view now at the Met Breuer.