A Cotton Office in New Orleans is an 1873 oil painting by Edgar Degas. In it, Degas depicts the moment when his uncle Michel Musson’s cotton brokerage business went bankrupt in an economic crash, according to Michael McMahon of thePittsburgh Post-Gazette. The firm was swamped by the postwar growth of the much larger Cotton Exchange. In the painting, Musson is seen examining raw cotton for its quality while Degas’ brother Rene reads The Daily Picayune. It carried the bankruptcy news. Another brother, Achille, rests against a window wall at left while others, including Musson’s partners, go about their business.
A Cotton Office in New Orleans is the first painting by Degas to be purchased by a museum, and the first by an Impressionist. Degas’ sale of the piece marks a turning point in his career as he moved from being a struggling unrecognized artist to a recognized and financially stable artist, according to Marilyn Brown in her book Degas and the Business of Art: A Cotton Office in New Orleans.