Friday, December 02, 2005

Can You Help Me Identify This Picture?

old picture
Anyone out there have any idea when or where this print originated, or who the artist was? I'd guess the 1920s or 1930s; the artist's name as it appears in the print looks like "Cope." The print is on textured paper and it looks about the same consistency as Christmas wrapping paper or a paper placemat. It measures about 18"x10". The frame is badly worn and beat, though the print itself is in good condition.

(You can click on the picture above to see a larger version of it.)

There's a story behind this print. I first encountered a print just like it in the fall of 1981. I was in seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Some of us were over at the loft apartment of a fellow seminarian. He had all sorts of wonderful art objects in his apartment, including a copy of this print hanging on the wall. (Yes, in case you hadn't guessed, he was an Episcopalian. ;-)

I saw that print of his that once and that once only, but it stuck in my mind. It was one of the inspirations behind a strange second-person short story I wrote, entitled "Yellowstripes."

As the years went by, I could still picture that print in my head. I assumed I'd never see the likes of it again.

Until about ten years ago, when I was serving as an interim pastor in north central Illinois. One day I walked into an antique shop, and what should I sight but... another copy of that very same print!

It wasn't cheap, but I didn't hesitate for an instant. I snatched it up, and it's hung on my wall ever since.

Though I'm still clueless as to its provenance. Way back when, I raised this question here and at Dean's World, and commenters were able to identify the characters in the picture— "the guy on the ground is Pierrot, and the two walking are Pierrette and Harlequin"— and they noted that the style looks like an artist called Erté. Can anyone add any further ideas about this print, who or what or when or where?

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