"The Milliners," a circa 1898 painting by the French artist, is one of the most expensive works of art in the museum’s collection, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday.
"This is a major picture for us," said Charlotte Eyerman, curator of modern and contemporary art, who negotiated the purchase. "It is a bridge between our Van Goghs, Gauguins and Cezanne and our 20th-century holdings, particularly Matisse. It is a thrilling modern painting."
The picture, the museum’s first Degas oil, was scheduled to go on view Thursday morning in the impressionist galleries.
A depiction of two women assembling a hat, the painting was paid for through private donations, income from restricted endowment funds, money raised from selling works of art, proceeds from the museum shop and various support groups, museum spokeswoman Jennifer Stoffel told the Post-Dispatch.
The museum bought the work from Blondeau Fine Arts Services in Geneva, Switzerland, which had acquired it from an investment group that had held it for a decade.
From 1936 to 1997, it was in two private French collections, the newspaper said.