In 1896, the series Elles is edited in 100 copies by Gustave Pellet, specialist of erotic prints and of Félicien Rops. This portfolio consists in twelve lithographs 52 x 40 cm including a cover page and a frontispiece.
The project was certainly prepared in a hurry : the disparity in tone is due to the fact that some originals were oil paintings while the others were drawings.
These women are busy in their private activities such as grooming and rest, with no allusion to their work of prostitutes or actresses, at times of the day when men have a secondary role in their lives. The title, Elles, is significant.
The artist was inspired by the Japanese ukiyo-e and by Degas's backstage. One only of these women is identifiable: the clowness Cha-U-Kao. This odd-sounding name is meant to evoke the gardens of Asian delights but also the chahut-chaos that was her favorite cancan.
She was openly lesbian and the dominating presence of her image indicates that this series is made to represent feminity or feminism instead of sexual life. The threat of syphilis began perhaps to change the behavior of the artist.
A complete portfolio is estimated $ 900K, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 5, lot 121.