Tribute to Erté, Audio Tour Track #3009
Tribute to Erté, 2004, Brooke Tucker, 1:12 scale
A Tribute to Erté, located in our museum's Exploring the World Gallery. Created by Brooke Tucker in 2004, featuring the work of 13 contributing artisans. The piece was created in 1:12 scale, where one inch in miniature is equivalent to 12 inches in the full scale.
This piece is a split-level room box set into the gallery wall and framed behind glass. It depicts the imagined studio of the world-famous artist and fashion designer, Erté. One of the foremost designers of the early twentieth century, Erté was beloved for his extravagant, dazzling costumes, featuring theatrical elements of feathers, beads, and fur. This studio pays homage to Erté's glorious trademark style at the height of his popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, featuring the heavy influence of the Art Deco movement. The room has an autumn palette of golds, oranges, creamy pearls, and bronzes, juxtaposed against a cool green wallpaper with a repeating leaf motif for balance.
In the lower left of the room is a sunken seating area with two custom made round-backed armchairs. The coffee table in front of them is a solid oval with a flat top and flat, legless base; it is modern and unusual, with the lower half covered in bronze-black bumpy nodules and the top half a roughly textured metallic gold.
Moving up just three steps along a carpeted rise brings us to the room's second level, the main floor. Here we find two stylish mannequins, draped in fabric and jewelry and adorned with painted hair and lavish headpieces. These female mannequins only feature the body from the waist up, perched on pedestals. They have very short black hair, as was the women’s fashion in the flapper era of the Roaring 20s. There are large, oval niches in the far left studio walls, where some of Erté's fashion sketches have been brought to life as oversized paper dolls, hand-painted with watercolors and inks. Their costumes are applied in layers, producing an almost three-dimensional look.
A shiny black lacquered elevator with gold-painted details takes us to the third and fourth levels of the room: two balconies at varied heights, each with a view of the main floor, below. The first balcony has four more oval niches with four more exotic fashions brought to life, as well as another drafting table with a set of artist's tools. The second balcony is to the right of the first, slightly higher and much smaller, only large enough to hold one chair and one more mannequin.
Our museum founder, Pat Arnell, commissioned Brooke Tucker to create this roombox. Arnell was in need of a miniature setting that would properly showcase her new drafting tables and accessories made by William Robertson. Working in wood and metal, Robertson produces some of the most sought-after fine scale miniatures in the world. His uncompromising views of accuracy are legendary among miniature artisans. His two drafting tables featured in this roombox are exact miniature replicas of ones manufactured by Keuffel & Esser Co., an American drafting instrument company founded in 1867. The stool features a round wooden seat and four metal legs and measures only 2 ¼ inches high. In spite of its small size, the stool can actually be raised and lowered as well as roll on its four miniature steel casters. The drafting tables, too, can raise up and down and tilt their tops, using the same gear and rack mechanism as their full scale counterpart. Robertson also hand-crafted minuscule pencils, paint brushes, paint pots, ink wells, and drafting tools which can be found throughout the studio. The pencils, which are a similar thickness to the wire of a paperclip, contain real pencil lead and can actually be used to write.
The decision to make the room a tribute to Erté was made entirely by Brooke Tucker. Growing up in Hollywood as the daughter of famous entertainers, Tucker's passion for set-design was instilled at an early age. The artform of miniatures allowed her the freedom to create her own worlds. It is easy to understand how the flamboyant Erté would have been a huge inspiration to her work.