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Rachel Cohen


At the Milliner's

At the Milliners

A lady, and a hat.  The lady is Mary Cassatt.  She posed for Degas, she is supposed to have said, “only once in a while when he finds the movement difficult and the model cannot seem to get his idea.”

Is the difficult movement here that of the woman herself, coming to an understanding with the hat?

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Or is it the movement across the barrier, the mirror, between her and the shop assistant, who hands her another hat.

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These shop assistants were not allowed to sit down – they still don’t, sit down, women working in shops.  Here it means that one of the figures is at leisure to imagine herself becoming another woman, one who wears such a hat

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while the other, somewhat obscured, politely, and by constraint, awaits her transformation.

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[All images are iphone pictures from Degas, At the Milliner's, Metropolitan Museum, 1882, pastel.]