About the Work
Erté's genius extends far beyond his imaginative fashion designs. His unique sense of style is exhibited in many of his finest creations, the most exciting of which illustrate his brilliance in ways far beyond his choice of fabric and color. So it is with Masquerade, the significance of which is hidden behind its title.
With the great success of his famous Alphabet set of drawings in the 1920s, Erté was inspired to create a corresponding series of numerals. He meticulously designed each digit using the sinuous image of the female form, subtly including in them particular symbolisms associated with each number.
The sculpture, Masquerade, was originally created in gouache, as a fashion illustration for Harper's Bazaar in 1922. This image was also recreated by Erté as a limited edition serigraph as part of his highly regarded Numeral Suite in 1980. Masquerade, the design of which was an important part of that suite, was created to represent the number "9". At first glance, the sculpture Masquerade is an attractive image, seemingly innocuous, not unusual as an Erté design. However, upon closer look, the title's significance becomes clear. As its name implies, the figure is disguised, or masquerading -- in this case as a feline.
So natural is the shape of her flowing tail that the numeral it illustrates seems almost an afterthought. What better symbol than the cat to represent the number "9" considering its most familiar aspect -- its famed nine lives. Exquisite to behold, Masquerade is as lively in spirit, stylish in manner, and innovative in approach as was the artist himself. Today, the piece is as fresh and exciting as when it was just a vision in the mind's eye of the inimitable Erté.
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.