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Gaston Leroux (French, 1854-1942) A Very Fine French 19th Century Polychromed and Patinated Bronze Sculpture of "Aida" Resting on a Sphinx, her legs crossed and holding a gilt-bronze tambourine, after the model by Gaston Veuvenot Leroux "Aida, A Femme Au Tambourin Assise Sur Une Tete De Sphinx". Signed: Gaston Leroux, Paris. Circa: Paris, 1890.

Height: 29 inches (74 cm)

Ref.: A1935

The opulent and extensively detailed version of Aida was inspired by ethnographic findings of the mid-19th Century in ancient Egypt as well as the influences of theatre and costume design. Travelers to the East had often recorded their journeys, either in writing or in pictures, but the movement of Egyptomania was wider-reaching than Egyptology. The immensely popular vogue of Egyptomania is without doubt due to the success of performing arts in recreating this era - in particular, Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Both the Cairo and Paris premieres created sensations so large that they influenced generations of artists from Alexander Cabanel to Cecil de Mille. In Aida, the ruins of Egypt were brought back to life in full color and and scale before the eyes of a generation that would make history as romantics, adventurers and explorers.

The Cairo premier of Aida was entirely conceived by one of the foremost Egyptologists of the day, Auguste Mariette, who was assigned to the project by Khedive Ismail Pasha himself. His involvement with the set and costumes contributed to the success of the piece. Verdi, who had twice turned down the Khedive's invitation, was inspired by Mariette's synopsis of the opera delivered to him in 1870, and agreed to compose the music for the work. Mariette's primary concern was the challenge of transforming two dimensional hieroglyphs and large stone statues into characters on a stage. In one of his letters dated Paris, 15 July 1870, he states: 'Finding the proper balance, through studying the ancient costumes discovered in the temples and adapting them to the demands of the modern stage, is a delicate task. A king may be quite majestic in granite with a huge crown on his head, but when we endow him with flesh and blood, and have him walk and sing, it may get awkward and embarrassing. We must be wary of one thing ... provoking laughter'. Mariette's final costumes for Aida were a satisfying re-creation of ancient Egyptian attire and his marvelous sets transported the spectators at the Cairo premiere to the time and land of the pharaohs, which is why the preparations revolving around the 1880 Paris premiere were so highly anticipated. For the Paris opening, Pierre-Eugène Lacoste was responsible for designing the costumes. He was a more experienced designer than Mariette and his costumes for the opera were better-fitted, carefully researched and more authentic. Artists inspired by the Egyptian revival collaborated extensively and demonstrated the possibilities of mixing styles. Costume and jewelry designers such as the Castellani Workshops influenced painters such as Edwin Long and Lawrence Alma-Tadema as well as sculptors such as Emile-Louis Picault and Gaston Leroux.

"Aida" by Gaston Leroux was sold at Christie's London on September 24, 2008, Sale 7614, Lot 41 for £13,750 GBP ($25,436 USD)



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