Art Deco Ballet Costume, Egyptian Theme
Design by Paul Larthe, Paris: 1937

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Art Deco Exotic Woman's Costume Design, Egyptian Theme

Paul R. Larthe (French, fl. 1930s to 1940s)
Costume design for Princesses Oasis d'Ammon
(Act II), Alexandre Le Grand [Alexander the Great]

French: c. 1937
Signed pencil upper left
Titled in pencil top margin
Gouache and watercolor, applied gold foil, on green paper
19 x 12 inches
Provenance: Sotheby's, London
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Art Deco costume design, combining clean lines, geometric shapes and overlapping rectangles intended to evoke ancient Egyptian motifs.  It was created for the Princesses Oasis d'Ammon, in Act II of Alexandre le Grand, a 1937 ballet performed at the Paris Opera.  This costume design features an Egyptian headdress accented in the artwork by applied gold foil.

Alexandre le Grand was first staged on June 21, 1937 by the Paris Opera Ballet, and choreographed by Serge Lifar (1905-1986) to music composed by Philippe Gaubert.  In the 1930s, Lifar, who had been a protégé of the renowned choreographer Diaghilev, was at the height of his career, as the ballet master, choreographer and star dancer for the Paris Opera Ballet.  There he choreographed ballets about male heroes in which he danced the leading roles, including Alexandre le Grand, an epic ballet with a prologue, three acts and an epilogue based on the historical figure Alexander the Great.  In the ballet, Alexander, having conquered Greece, moves to expand his empire by taking over Jerusalem.  There he marries the most beautiful woman in Judea.  Arriving in Egypt, he founds the city of Alexandria.  His next military conquest is Persia, where he chooses Babylon as the capital.  During a banquet, the queen succeeds in poisoning him.  Zeus appears and invites Alexander to scale the slopes of Mount Olympus.

Paul-René Larthe was a French costume and set designer for several ballets and operas performed at the Paris Opera during the 1930s.  Ballet credits include sets and costumes for dances choreographed by Serge Lifar and Albert Aveline, including Lifar’s Alexandre le Grand and Icare and Aveline’s Coppélia (sets only) and Les Deux Pigeons.  Opera credits include the set designs for Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Delila.  Larthe is known for his neoclassical style.

References:

“Alexandre le Grand.” Internet Dance Database.  2003-2005. http://www.idancedb.com/file.php5?id=50142 (1 October 2007).

Garafola, Lynn.  “Looking back at the Ballets Russes: rediscovering Serge Lifar - Lifar's life and art collection.”  Originally in Dance Magazine, October 1997.  Online at LookSmart.  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1083/is_n10_v71/ai_19829152/pg_1 (1 October 2007).

“Paul Larthe.”  Internet Dance Database.  2003-2005.  http://www.idancedb.com/file.php5?id=72232 (1 October 2007).