Tales of Belle Epoque Paris via Hollywood 1952

April 29, 2020

Yes, we are looking at Henri de Toulouse Lautrec in 1890s Paris, and although painted in 1952 and therefore much later than the time parameters for Gallery 19C, we could not resist adding this charming work to our inventory.  It is by the French artist, Marcel Vertès.  There are several reasons why you may already know Marcel Vertès.  Have you ever been to the Café Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel in New York and enjoyed classic cabaret? If so, you were sitting against the backdrop of Marcel Vertès’s music-themed wall murals, which he painted for the Café Carlyle’s grand opening in 1955.  Even earlier, you might have come across Vertès’s advertisements for the launch of fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous perfume, Shocking in 1937; at the time his designs were considered somewhat bawdy and “shocking” for the industry.


In 1952, Vertès turned his attention to Hollywood, and in a second collaboration with Elsa Schiaparelli, he designed the costumes and sets for John Houston’s critically acclaimed film, Moulin Rouge, which depicted the life of Toulouse Lautrec.  This is the subject of our sketch, which shows Vertès’s preliminary ideas for the costumes of Toulouse Lautrec and the prostitute, Marie Charlet.  In the film, it was also Vertès who provided the drawings of Toulouse Lautrec at work as he sketched the colorful personalities of the Moulin Rouge.  For his costume and set designs, Vertès won two Academy Awards that year.  The movie is also remembered for the beautiful song, Where is your Heart, celebrating April in Paris (sung by Muriel Smith and dubbed by Zsa Zsa Gabor, who stared as the famous Jane Avril!)


In these challenging times, when we find our favorite cities around the globe shuttered and empty, films like Moulin Rouge serve to provide a little nostalgia and distraction.  We will love Paris forever in our hearts!


Marcel Vertès (French, 1895-1961)

Signed Vertès (upper left) and inscribed Moulin Rouge/Marie accoste Lautrec (lower left)

Pencil, watercolor and gouache on paper

20 by 26 in (51 by 66 cm.)