Signed D.H. Chiparus
Inscribed Etling Paris
Bronze with green, golden and silver patina on a black veined marble base with sculpted bronze plaques
Height: 28" (71.5 cm) including base
Conceived and cast circa 1925
Demétre Haralamb Chiparus was born in Rumania but lived and worked in his adopted city of Paris. He studied under the renowned sculptors, Antoine Mercié and Jean Boucher, at the École des Beaux Arts. In his final year at the school he won an honourable medallion for one of his works exhibited in the Salon des Artistes. He achieved a level of admiration and fame for using the combination of bronze and ivory, known more commonly as chryselephantine.
Chiparus drew inspiration from the beginnings of French and German cinema in the 1910s and 1920s, he was particularly fascinated by the films and photographs of the Russian ballet dancers, such as Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein, who both performed in Paris with the Ballets Russes. For Chiparus the elegant and flowing complexity of a dancer’s movement proved to be an excellent subject matter for small bronze sculptures and he returned to it many times in his career.
Vaslav Nijinsky in 1911’s “Le Spectre de la Rose” at London’s Royal Opera House.
In 1922 Chiparus was swept along by the wave of interest in Ancient Egypt after the rediscovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. This sparked a decade long passion for Egyptian art and culture for Chiparus and the Art Deco movement as a whole. Chiparus’ fascination with dance and Ancient Egypt would eventually combine spectacularly in his 1925 sculpture, Egyptian Dancer.
With Egyptian Dancer, Chiparus chooses to present his female dancer in a moment of suspended levitation and bliss. With her arms akimbo and standing on her toes, the dancer is in the midst of a flourish and the radiant smile on her face invites us to share her passion for her art. She is dressed not in ballet attire, but with oriental sandals, a gold piece around her waist along with an elaborate headdress and arm bracelets. Her nude upper body is a common interpretation of the period’s concept of the oriental mystique of Ancient Egypt.
On the black veined marble base there is a bronze plaque exhibiting a stylistic version of Egyptian painting and hieroglyphs. A musician with a lyre is seen kneeling under the winged sun, a symbol for divinity and power. This is a reference to the muse of music, which the Egyptian musician is conjuring up for our female dancer.
In keeping with the Art Deco fashions of the time, after the sculpture was cast in bronze it was finished with a combination of patination, spray paint and enamel. Over the years, the thin layers of colour were prone to fading and occasionally revealing patches of the bronze underneath. In the majority of cases, this was combatted with either restoration, which was very difficult, or excessive cleaning. This resulted in a loss of the original patination and colour that Chiparus intended for his work. This example of Egyptian Dancer has the great fortune of having been in the possession of a single family since it was cast, with no restoration or cleaning carried out. As such its original colour and patination has been preserved and retained, making it one of the finest examples Bowman Sculpture has encountered.
Other examples of Chiparus’ exploration of the Egyptian motive include Snake Dancer, Faetalliana, Alexandrian Dancer and Cleopatra. At his best, Chiparus epitomized the luxurious exuberance of the Art Deco period. Today, the largest collection of Chiparus’ works can be found in the Art Deco Museum in Moscow and the Editions Graphique Gallery in London.
Alberto Shayo, Chiparus: Master of Art Deco (London: 2016)
Bryan Catley, Art Deco and Other Figures (Woodbridge: 1978) illus. p.84
Emmanuel Benezit, Dictionnaire Des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs Vol.3 (Paris: 1976), p. 4.
Harold Berman, Bronzes, Sculptors and Founders (Chicago: 1974), illus. fig. 1583
Michael Forrest, Art Bronzes (Pittsburgh: 1988) illustrated fig. 9.120
Victor Arwas, Art Deco Sculpture (New York:1992), p. 233