Erté, often called the father of Art Deco, described the style as “the confluence of Cubism and Art Nouveau.” Nowhere is that combination more clearly seen than in this gouache on board illustration painting, which appeared as the October 1923 “Annual Fall Fashion” cover of Harper’s Bazar. In “Les Parfums” a dramatic figure, costumed in an orientalist gown with his signature mix of pattern and linear composition, is enclosed within a perfume bottle atop a bed of flowers. The petals and wisps of scent that fill the air have the organic feel of the nouveau, while the geometric designs that make up the bottle and figure are profoundly modernist. Erté’s signature appears in the lower right, a lighter blue against the cobalt background.
In 1916, Erté was signed to an exclusive contract as a cover and fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazar by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had previously published some of Erté’s work, and was furious upon seeing sketches by the artist in Vogue, one of Harper’s closest competitors. From then on, Erté was a fixture at Harper’s and his vision became synonymous with the look of the magazine.
The backing board of this original gouache painting includes Ertés suggested title “Les Parfums” and No 77, likely indicating that this was the artist’s 77th commission for the title. The artist’s full name Romain de Tirtoff and Paris address are also visible, along with various other notations.
This original gouache cover painting remains in pristine condition with vivid uncompromised coloring and surfaces. Our colleagues at The Dream Gardener in Seattle created a custom made gesso’ed museum quality frame for this original cover gouache painting. The October, 1923 edition of Harper’s Bazaar is included in the sale.
This is a scarce surviving example of Erté cover art, and has been in a private collection since 1982, when it sold at Sotheby’s in London.