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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a proud member of the late-night community of Paris and would come into contact with all manner of interesting characters whilst out and about. La Clownesse Assise provides a portrait of a performer of who he was well acquainted.
Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o was no stranger to the limelight, as a versatile performer in nightclubs right across Paris. In this portrait she stares directly at the artist as he captures her sitting outside, perhaps waiting for her moment to appear on stage. Her facial expression points to her friendship with Toulouse-Lautrec, she makes little effort to show her as anything other than herself, clearly relaxed in his presence. With his own issues of disability, many would warm to him and feel particularly un-threatened by his presence.
Cha-u-ka-o had been a successful gymnast from an early age but as time passed she was forced to adapt and become a clownness instead. She would become a dancer at the Nouveau Cirque and the Moulin Rouge, highly prestigious shows. Of course, Toulouse-Lautrec produced several advertisement posters for these very same shows and many of his friends were also part of the same social circles as the dancer. Within those posters Toulouse-Lautrec would often create figures using only silhouettes rather than.
This coloured lithograph is dated at 1896 and received an impressive valuation of around £200,000 by Christies when it came up for sale relatively recently in early 2015. The high prominence of this artist's career, combined with the large amount of work that he completed across different mediums, have made him particularly common within European auctions. You will find the same with other multi-discipline artists, typically where large numbers of study drawings have survived to the present day.