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Swann Galleries celebrate Belle Epoque beauties immortalised by artist who inspired Coco Chanel
Paul César Helleu’s society portraits, which captured the spirit of the times with his delicate and detailed portrayals, come to auction. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

NEW YORK, NY.- Swann Auction Galleries celebrates the Belle Epoque on March 5 with a series of exquisite portraits of society women and girls by a master of the genre, the French artist Paul César Helleu.

The half-dozen colour drypoint etchings, which include one of the artist’s daughter Paulette, all date to around 1900 and are expected to fetch prices ranging from $1,800 to $3,500 each in the 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings auction.

Helleu was a close friend of the American Society portrait painter John Singer Sargent and an acquaintance of Whistler; Sargent’s swagger portraits of society figures were the talk of the Edwardian era and clearly influenced his French friend, who mastered the drypoint etching technique before going on to capture figures as distinguished as the Duchess of Marlborough and Helena Rubenstein. Helleu also befriended Coco Chanel who selected beige as her signature colour on his advice, with both his son, Jean, and grandson, Jacques, going on to become artistic directors for Parfums Chanel.

The etchings will appear alongside works by some the leading artists of the period, whose own prints and drawings form highlights in the sale. These include drypoint etchings by James

Whistler, the best of which is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000, the same guide as for a drawing by Jean-François Millet and a linocut print by Pablo Picasso.

Live online bidding is available via the website at and on the Swann Galleries app, which means bidders from all over the world have direct access to the sale.

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