Degas frequently observed the dancers of the Paris Opéra, and was fascinated by their grace and discipline. In this sculpture, Degas showes a dancer practising the ‘arabesque penchée’, a position that requires tremendous control. The dancer must stay steady on one foot while raising the other leg as high and as straight as possible. Degas made the original wax model of this figure between 1882 and 1895. Following Degas’s death, Adrien-Aurélien Hébrard made bronze casts of the figure, and designated each one a letter of the alphabet between A and T. This cast is inscribed ‘G’, and the number sixteen is incised above the letter. This number refers to the subject matter; all the casts Hébrard made of Degas’s models of dancers were numbered 1 to 37.