Venetian (Woman with a dog) - ROM2006_7293_15

ROM2006_7293_15

Venetian (Woman with a dog)

Maker: Designed by André Vincent Becquerel (French, active c. 1910-1930), retailed by Edmond Etling (Etling & Cie.)
Medium:Bronze, patterns created with patination and chemcial silvering, carved ivory face, Portor marble plinth
Geography: Paris, Île-de-France, France
Date: c.1920-1930
Dimensions:
24.7 x 21.5 x 9.5 cm
Object number: 998.136.144
Credit Line: Donated from the Collection of Bernard and Sylvia Ostry; Certified by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Attestée par la Commission canadienne d'examen des exportations de biens culturels en vertu de la Loi sur l'exportation et l'importation de biens culturels.
Not on view
Description<p>Sometimes the spirit of an age or a type is summed up in a small example. Today the plain geometric, Cubist, and streamlined forms of Art Deco are best known and most often reproduced probably because they are rated more highly as antecedents to the Modern style that followed. However, there was also a romantic, sentimental aspect to Deco that is epitomized in the Viennese operettas so popular in the period. The tricorn hat and fulsome cloak wrapping this young woman evoke the Venetian carnival figures, which were a popular theme in eighteenth-century art. A small, fitted black face mask and a plain black cloak would make the illusion complete. During the 1920s, masquerades and carnavale or Mardi Gras themes were popular for parties and the theatre. Advertising for products such as cosmetics often drew upon these eighteenth-century themes and the Italian Commedia dell' Arte with figures of Harlequin, Columbine, and their compatriots.</p>

<p>This figure has been updated to fit its period. The cloak displays a stylized floral pattern reminiscent of the production of Paul Poiret's Atelier Martine in Paris and other fashionable design ateliers. The dress and shoes, visible only at the front opening of the cloak, are 1920s evening wear. Long lean dogs such as greyhounds, Afghan hounds, and borzois (Russian wolfhounds) were popular in the period and often appeared in the decorative arts. Here the dog is a borzoi of championship quality. Traditional depictions of the Venetian Carnival seldom portrayed dogs. The pose of the woman is very theatrical. The stage and the new moving pictures often influenced Art Deco decorative arts and graphic design.</p>

<p>A number of techniques characteristic of the period were used in the sculpture. The patterns and chemical patination of the bronze were inspired by the study of metalwork from other periods and countries. This included damascened or inlaid decoration of multi-coloured metals found in Spanish and Middle Eastern countries as well as Japanese-inspired abstract floral motifs and patination. The dog and parts of the cloak pattern were chemically coated with a thin layer of silver. At the time, the French used this silver finish for bronze, particularly furniture mounts and decorative objects. Art Deco sculptors commonly used carved ivory to create a contrasting colour and aesthetic for the faces and hands. Such bronzes are described as "chryselephantine" bronzes. Ivory was priced by weight and at the time cost less than the bronze. The figure is mounted on a base of black Portor marble with veins of white, pale pink, and pale salmon. Portor marble was commonly used for sculptural bases, desk sets, lamps, architectural trim, and fireplaces during the Art Deco period. It is almost a signature of the times.</p>

<p>Little is known about André-Vincent Becquerel. He was born at Saint-André Farvilliers (Oise) and studied under Hector Lemaire and Lecourtier. As a sociétaire, he exhibited statuettes of animals at the Salon des Artistes Français between 1914 and 1922. Etling et Cie, 29, rue de Paradis, Paris, whose name is impressed along the lower edge of the figure's robe, was a producer of upscale decorator items and pressed glass in the Lalique style between 1913 and 1940. Etling products were usually of good quality and were often barometers of popular taste. A more elaborate version of this figure, with a simpler pattern to the cloak, painted features to the face, and a two-tiered plinth with the upper layer comprised of bands of cream onyx and Portor marble, is illustrated by Bryan Catley. It is 40 cm (15 3/4 inches) tall.</p>

<p>The "Venetian" has much to say about the Art Deco period in terms of style and materials, but the viewer is still left wondering about its meaning and subject matter. Most contemporary figures present the subject in an obvious fashion, without psychological overtones. For example, figures in Mardi Gras or carnival costume were usually young couples in a happy, romantic situation. Was this young woman jilted at the Carnival and left holding her faithful dog on a short leash? We may never know unless period documentation is discovered.</p>
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