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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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"Leotard"; Chiparus kneeling beauty; bronze and ivory sculpture on onyx plinth base; 19 3/4 inches high; sold for $84,000. Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman.
To look at a Demetre Chiparus sculpture is to know the artist loved women. It would be impossible to sculpt the way he did without real passion for his subject.

Intimate, timeless, beauty came to life through his hands. The Art Deco sculptor specialized in dancers and captured their willowy, elegant form like few others.

The Romanian artist who came to study in Paris and stayed possessed extraordinary talent as an artist.

He was active in the 1920s and today is regarded as a master of Art Deco bronzes. If you wanted to understand the fashions of the day, Chiparus sculptures are a place to look.

The close-fitting caps, pendant earrings, skin-tight garb, flowing fabrics—all wrapped around these slim, exotic beauties. He was fascinated by the dancers in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes who entertained the cafe society in Paris. He was also mesmerized by the performers in Parisian nightclubs.

In real life I imagine Chiparus in the middle of the dance floor spinning these sweet-smelling beauties around. They possess the kind of beauty and lighthearted sensibility that could stop a room full of people in their tracks.

Chiparus sculpted in an era of rapid change in the world. It was the Jazz age. The automobile and transcontinental airplane flights were now available. Electricity and wireless communication were coming of age. The movie industry was booming. Add to the mix archaeologist Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewelry and graphic design were all thrown into the mix. The 1920s and 1930s was an era of luxury and decadence. The new streamlined style and sleek lines could be seen in everything from vacuum cleaners and toasters to New York skyscrapers and Miami villas.

Chiparus was probably the most talented of the Art Deco sculptors. He used ivory for his ladies faces, hands and bare flesh which gave the figures a more natural, lifelike look and exotic appeal.

His figurines were also known for their jewel-like costumes and fancy bases. Produced as multiples, the works were appreciated as small-scale decorative objects.

Chiparus worked mostly with the Etling Foundry in Paris. His bronzes often have the D. H. Chiparus signature etched in the marble base. Some also may show the name of the foundry where they were cast.

Sometimes the marks can be hard to spot. Nowadays, one of the big problems is the quantity of Chiparus reproductions on the market. Spotting a signature doesn’t always mean what you’re looking at is the real thing.

The secret to telling Chiparus period Chryselephantine (painted bronze with ivory) sculptures from reproductions--is in the details. Take the fingers as an example. A period Chiparus sculpture typically will have long, slim fingers so exact you can make out the fingernails.

It’s that kind of detail you’re looking for in a period Chiparus. The reproductions are missing this feature. You should also see some age lines in the ivory. If the bronze looks brand new, it probably is.

On April 13 -14, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago featured two Chiparus bronzes in its Furniture and Decorative Arts auction. Here are some current values.

Demetre Chiparus

Leotard; kneeling beauty; bronze and ivory sculpture on onyx plinth base; foundry tag LN Paris JL on underside of base; 19 ¾ inches high; $84,000.

Dourge; lady with arms extended over head; bronze and ivory sculpture on marble plinth; inscribed D. Chiparus; 24 ¾ inches high; $90,000.

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