The National Gallery has renamed Edgar Degas’ classic drawing that has been incorrectly known as ‘Russian Dancers’ to ‘Ukrainian Dancers’ as the current crisis in the region prompts a rethink on “lazy” cultural mislabelling.
The pastel depiction by the French impressionist is of a troupe of dancers who performed in Paris and apparently hailed from Ukraine but up until now had been known as ‘Russian Dancers’ due to political oversights.
While the picture was not currently on display, Ukrainians on social media pointed out the mislabelling to The National Gallery and they promptly amended the inaccuracy and will look to do so with other works.
A spokesperson for the gallery announced: “The title of this painting has been an ongoing point of discussion for many years and is covered in scholarly literature; however there has been increased focus on it over the past month due to the current situation so therefore we felt it was an appropriate moment to update the painting’s title to better reflect the subject of the painting.”
With the dancers sporting Ukrainian colours as garlands in their hair, it has long been suggested that Degas’ subjects had been mislabelled since the turn-of-the-20th-century work was created.
This change has prompted a further rethink about the labelling of art. “I understand that the term Russian art became an easy umbrella term which was useful but it’s really important now to get things right,” Mariia Kashchenko of Art Unit said on the matter.
Adding: “As a Ukrainian person, in the past I would have encountered times when I was called Russian, or where Ukrainian heritage was described as Russian.”
Further works are currently under consideration by The National Gallery and other such institutions as the reverberations of mislabelling have sadly become heightened amid the current crisis.