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About the WorkThis image was created originally as a costume design for Mary Garden's role as Fiora in the opera "L'Amore dei Tre Re" in 1926. Erté created a number of costumes for Mary Garden, an American opera singer. Described as "the Sarah Bernhardt of opera," Garden was an exceptional actress as well as a talented singer. She was particularly admired for her nuanced performances, which employed interesting uses of vocal color.
"L'Amore dei Tre Re" is an opera in three acts by Italo Montemezzi. The story is set in Italy during the Dark Ages. Archibaldo, the blind king, conquered the kingdom of Altura forty years before the opera begins, and the people there object to his ruling. Archibaldo's son Manfredo was married to the native Alturan princess Fiora, however, the princess Fiora is having an affair with another Alturan prince, Avito. Although Archibaldo suspects Fiora of infidelity he has no proof. Manfredo pours out his love for Fiora, and begs her to show him affection. In the meantime, there are two love duets between Fiora and Avito. Archibaldo questions Fiora about her infidelity and finally, enraged, Archibaldo strangles her. Fiora's body is laid in a crypt, and the people of Altura mourn for her. Archibaldo has secretly poisoned Fiora's lips so that her lover will die. Avito kisses Fiora's lips, and as he is dying he admits to Manfredo, that he was Fiora's lover, and that Archibaldo has laid the poison. Stricken with grief at the loss of the woman he loved, Manfredo also kisses Fiora's lips. Finally, Archibaldo enters to see if his trap has caught Fiora's lover, and despairs as he hears the voice of his dying son.
About the Artist
Erté was born Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23rd, 1892 and was raised amidst Russia's social elite. At the age of five he created an evening gown for his mother and managed to persuade the adults to craft it, they were astounded by the results. In 1912, Romain left St. Petersburg for Paris at the age of nineteen with the aim of becoming an artist. After working with Paul " Le Magnifique" Poiret on several theatrical productions Romain, still under the pseudonym of Erte, began to work more independently. He hand-crafted original costume and fashion designs for many of the era’s most renowned actresses, including Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, Anna Pavlova, Norma Shearer, and others. His masterpieces for the stage included extravagant production designs at venues such as New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Casino de Paris, and the Paris Opera. In 1915 he began his long professional relationship with Harper's Bazaar and created 240 covers for the esteemed magazine. For 6 months in 1916, Erté simultaneously worked with Vogue as well. As a result of his highly publicized success, Erté would later be called the father of the ‘Art Deco’ movement.