The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of July 22, 2024

Elles: The Seated Clown, Mlle Cha-u-Ka-o

Elles: The Seated Clown, Mlle Cha-u-Ka-o

(French, 1864-1901)
Sheet: 52.6 x 40.3 cm (20 11/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
Gift of Ralph King 1925.1204.2
Catalogue raisonné: Wittrock Vol.I.156 ; Delteil 180
Location: not on view

Did You Know?

This print belongs to a portfolio published by the dealer Gustave Pellet, who created a special luxury paper that featured a watermark of his initials.


The French publisher Gustave Pellet, hoping to attract new customers, persuaded Lautrec to make a series of ten prints, plus frontispiece and cover, depicting brothels. Although it was not unusual to see prostitutes pictured in the popular press, Lautrec was the first well-known, successful artist to tackle this subject. The set was a commercial failure when it first appeared, perhaps because the scenes are not erotic. Lautrec had said that "they are women to my liking", and between 1892 and 1895 he often lived in various Parisian brothels for weeks at a time. This allowed him to witness the daily lives of the women, including the intimate acts of sleeping and bathing, and to sense their suffering. The result is that only two of the scenes show prostitutes as desirable temptresses. The remainder depict the mundane routine of the women's private world, their caring for each other, their boredom, and, living on the periphery of society, their sense of isolation. Lautrec did not take a direct moral stand. He portrayed the women sympathetically, restoring to them their humanity. One scene shows Juliette Baron, whose life of vice has led to premature aging, bringing her daughter Paulette breakfast. Other images depict the women at private moments, bathing or combing their hair in natural, relaxed poses, unaware of being observed. The beauty of the drawing and use of color makes this set one of the masterpieces of late nineteenth-century French color lithography.
  • Catalogue of an exhibition of the art of lithography: commemorating the sesquicentennial of its invention, 1798-1948. [Cleveland]: The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 11, 1948-January 2, 1949. Published as: La Clownesse assise (Mlle. Cha-u-ka-o). Mentioned: p. 66
    Kretzschmar, Sabine, "Sets and Series", Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland Art: The Cleveland Museum of Art Members Magazine. Vol. 36 no. 02, February 1996 Mentioned and reproduced: p. 8
  • Monet to Dalí: Modern Masters from the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (October 21, 2007-January 13, 2008).
    CMA 1996: Sets and Series: Five Centuries of Master Prints, February 20-May 5, 1996, no cat.
    Generous Donors: A Tribute to The Print Club of Cleveland. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (April 2-August 4, 1991).
    Printing in Color. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (September 10-November 17, 1985).
    The Artist and the Theater. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (April 5-September 12, 1960).
  • {{cite web|title=Elles: The Seated Clown, Mlle Cha-u-Ka-o |url=false|author=Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, printed by Auguste Clot|year=1896|access-date=22 July 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

Source URL: