The plethora of chorus line acts that populated Paris music halls and nightclubs in the 1920s achieved their effects through precision dance routines, though they trafficked in the same exotic themes as the Ballet Russes spectacles that inspired Chiparus the decade before. Chiparus’ “Les Girls” most likely draws from both of these acts. Like Léon Bakst’s ballerinas Chiparus’ figures are clothed in their own nudity. Their costumes disclose Paris’ new-found fascination with the body and its expressing moving form.
This lot is being sold with a letter of authenticity from Chiparus expert, Alberto Shayo.
In the 1920’s the city of Paris was bursting at its seams with life. And it was being invaded too. In 1909 the Ballets Russes had descended on the city from St. Petersburg with a talented troupe of dancers, musicians, decorators and costumes. For the next twenty years they staged outlandish performances the likes of which had never been seen.
In 1924 the Olympic Games were held in the city. The franc was undervalued. All this brought throngs of visitors to Paris. They came from all corners of the world including America. They eagerly embraced the city to see the sights and plunge into shopping extravaganzas. All were ready to be entertained. Ballets performances and the vaudeville revues were at full capacity.
Demeter Chiparus moved to Paris in 1912. After attending the famed Ecole des Beaux Arts, he found himself mirroring in sculptures what was happening on stage. Using bronze as his medium he combined it with ivory for the flesh tones and used selected marbles and onyxes to anchor his dancers.
Within his work, one stands out for it rarity. Les Girls. A cabaret line up of dancers graciously exhibiting themselves on their toes as if ready to jump from their base. It is the only model that has a multiple of five figures on a single base. Initially executed in plasteline, great attention was given to detail. In this case the body-tight costumes which seem identical yet are all different from each other. An expensive piece in its day accounts for the rarity of this model. Seldom seen yet eagerly seeked.
Yet what makes this particular sculpture special is its size. At 13 inches high it is the first time ever that such a model emerges. Unknown to the general public, it makes a discreet yet grand appearance. Its turquoise patina has never been used on such a model. This particular type of red marble is seldom seen in his body of work, as if chosen only for selected pieces. Variations in size in the oeuvre of Chiparus are not new. However this model in this smaller size comes closer to a jewel than a sculpture.
Almost a century later it seems ready to dazzle audiences in the new world just as it did in the old one.
-Alberto Shayo, Author of Chiparus: Master of Art Deco
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