Edgar Degas and Paul Valpinçon had a lifelong friendship that began even before the two became classmates in 1846. In fact, their fathers were friends. Paul’s father, Edouard Valpinçon, played a role in Degas’s artistic development by encouraging the young artist’s interest in the French neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Degas’s admiration of Ingres is apparent in the crisp, classicizing manner with which he captured his friend’s likeness in this portrait. Many years later, Paul’s daughter, Hortense, recounted the family history of the portrait’s creation. She said it was painted in the courtyard of her grandfather’s Paris home when her father was only twenty-one years old—an age that corresponds with the date of 1855 inscribed, in an unknown hand, on the painting’s reverse.The portrait remained with Hortense until the 1930s. Eventually it came into the collection of David M. Daniels, a native of St. Paul, who donated it to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1974.