About the WorkAtop a four-tier, black pedestal, Erté’s L’Orientale stands with enormous majesty, dignity, and strength. The figure’s long, flowing gown shimmers in salmon and coral coloring. Her outstretched arms are draped with a series of gold faceted chains that run across her chest and down to attach at her waist. Her spectacular headdress is created with a gold, flared head-piece that carries the theme of power and strength throughout the sculpture, ending in trailing fabrics that seem to withstand a strong breeze.
Erté’s inspiration for this triumphant bronze was one of his costume designs from the 1923 production of “Messalina”, performed at the Paris Apollo Theatre. The limited edition bronze that resulted from this original design is intricately detailed, the gown’s patina graduated in smooth, rich coloring, and outlined with in-laid gold beading. The texture and folds in the design dramatically bring the sculpture to life. The figure’s stance – triumphant, defiant, powerful – imbues the image with grace and authority.
During the period of the creation of the original stage design, Erté created many costumes with characteristics inspired by his travels and experiences in the Far East. The French music halls of this era carried this Oriental theme forward by encouraging many productions based on this exotic and unknown part of the world. Through Erté’s unusual designs, these distant and mysterious lands were brought to life, particularly through such designs as is found in L’Orientale.
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.