The clownesse Cha-U-Kao is one of his preferred characters. Like for the other women featured by the artist, we will not consider her as a sitter. Lautrec was a discrete witness of their life which he expressed with an incomparable spontaneity.
Cha-U-Kao is a contortionist who performs at the Moulin Rouge and the Nouveau Cirque. Like for many artists of the demimonde, we will not know her identity nor her past. She is not young and has the good taste not to exhibit herself any more in the nude. She is openly lesbian and such a female environment pleases Lautrec. In 1896, the series of prints Elles is designed by Lautrec around her intimate life.
In 1895, Toulouse-Lautrec executed several portraits of Cha-U-Kao in his signature technique of diluted oil which brings the delicacy of pastel hues. Lautrec is a follower of Degas excepted that the cabaret superseded the Opéra.
On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells one of these portraits à l'essence on board, 81 x 60 cm, lot 68T estimated $ 12M. The entertainer is standing thoughtfully, probably concentrated before performing. She does not appreciate that the artist is watching her and she does not hide her opulent curves.
SOLD for $ 12M including premium
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's.