About the WorkAt the request of the renowned stage actress, Ganna Walska, Erté created a series of spectacular costume designs for the productions in which she appeared for the Chicago Opera Company.
Some of these productions included a Boheme, I Pagliacci, and Faust. For the opera, Fedora, Erté created an unusually feminine and delicate design that has been rendered in sculpture and titled, Joie de Vivre.
Again, the mastery of Erté is evident. "Joie de Vivre" is adorned with 22K gold leaf butterflies which gracefully flow above the figure and are repeated throughout the gown and base. Silk white and pale Verde-green patinas are a splendid contrast to the finely detailed gold adornments. The flowing skirt is embossed with a swirling pattern perpetuating the animated, gentle motion of Joie de Vivre.
In Joie de Vivre, Erté enhances the themes of life and springtime with the use of soft colors, delicate butterflies and the gentle breeze that seems to cascade over the flowing gown.
The sculpture was inspired by the serigraph, "Fedora Butterfly", derived from the opera's title. The delicacy of the figure's stance, the use of sheer fabrics and the gentle motion of the butterflies all work together to create a sculpture of enormous grace and elegance.
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.