In the 1920s and ’30s, the French illustrator, fashion designer and set designer Erté achieved the kind of single-name fame usually reserved for stars of stage and song.
Born Roman de Tirtoff in 1892, Erté (pronounced “air-tay” — the French equivalent of his initials) would have grown up surrounded by the art nouveau designs of artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley. In developing his own artistic approach, Erté retained much of the flow of the nouveau movement but shifted toward a more geometric art deco style.
His many illustrations for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, for which he is broadly known, stand among the defining examples of the art deco aesthetic.
This “La Tosca” sculpture, part of a limited series of Erté bronzes, was inspired by the artist’s considerable body of stagework. It will be sold April 20 at Keystone Auctions on East Market Street in York. Online bidding is available through invaluable.com.
At the turn of the 20th century, “La Tosca” — the French play, not the Puccini opera that premiered soon after — was more popular than “Hamilton” is today. It starred France’s grande dame, Sarah Bernhardt, in the title role of Floria Tosca, and toured the world for years.
The show would have certainly influenced Erté during his formative years as an artist, and he would go on to design costumery for the 1920 Chicago Opera Co. production of the opera.
Standing about 20 inches tall, the “La Tosca” bronze was limited to a run of 500, and examples of this work have been selling in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.