by Amber Autumn
May 3, 2005
The Degas House is the home of Edgar Degas' uncle Michele Musson. Degas came to New Orleans around 1872-1873. During this time, he was redefining himself as a painter and was having eye problems. In New Orleans, the city was recovering from the Civil War. During his stay in New Orleans, he did family portraits of his cousins. Estelle was his great model. Edgar's brother Renee married Musson's Estelle, who was blind and had children with her. Unfortunately, the neighbor on Tonti Street caught his attention and he abandoned Estelle and her children for the neighbor woman who would read to his wife. Musson was so upset at Renee that he legally adopted Estelle's children and changed their name to Musson, never mentioning Degas again.
The bed and breakfast room is in the second building that leads upstairs. The rooms are very cozy and luxurious. The Estelle Room is done in a deep burgundy with a Jacuzzi tub. Another room is like a little girl's room in cream and white. The best was this one bedroom that had a large window where you could look out on Esplanade from the balcony where Degas once painted his cousin Mathilde. The balcony is slanted so you do have to be careful.
There are tours that can be conducted through both houses that are both educational and exciting. Since Estelle was blind, schoolchildren were blindfolded and had to find their way to the other parlor or the hall. Plus, since Degas was nearly blind, we also got to make a sculpture blindfolded. There was a theory that said it was a family defect since Estelle and Edgar were blind, but Degas was into art and the oils and chemicals was the cause of his eye problems. If you're into art and New Orleans history, this is a place not to miss.
From journal The Big Easy