They were originally from the ancient Greece. Fideas (490/431 B.C.) sculptor of Pericles classic al times, was charged by him of the decoration of the Parthenon. There he made some sculptures as the Antennae of Parthenos and the Olympic Jupiter. They were chryselephantine figures of big sizes which we made with gold and ivory, since their name chrysos (gold) and elephas (ivory).
B y the middle of the XIX century they were made by order, so under the guidance of the duke Luynes was made the Parthenon's Antennae by the sculptor Simart and being exhibited at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855.
The ivory has been used in works of art for centuries, but in the XIX century was used only in small objects of decoration due to its scarcity. It will be so till the annexing of the Congo by the kingdom of Belgium, when the massive introduction of ivory tusk took place in Europe. E.Van Estelde Belgian state secretary for Congo sells ivory to the artist of that time at very low prices.
The sculptors choose the bronze cheaper than the gold and combine it with the ivory giving a realistic appearance to the pieces. In 1896 in the Brussels exposition are shown the first chryselephantine figures. In this first exhibition the artist make figures of classical inspiration. Evolving their designs towards the tastes of that time, the figures get a bigger strength and sensuality giving them the characteristic symbolism of the Art Nouveau.
Some important artists of that time are: Agathon Leonard, Dominique Alonzo, V.H.Seifert, Otto Hoffman, Ernst Seger, and Albert Carrier Belleuse.
The chryselephantine get its maximum magnificence in the decade of 1920 at the starting of the Art Decó style beginning at the exposition internationale d'arts decoratifs et industriels modernes held at Paris in 1925.
In this exposition took part, among others, one of the most outstanding artists of the Art Decó movement, Demeter Chiparus who was a Romanian sculptor who arrived in France in 1912 settling in Paris the most cosmopolitan city of the moment (which has been for a long time the berth place of the artistic vanguard) and where coincide artist of all parts of Europe and of all class of art (painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers). It will be in the dance and the Russian ballets of the Diaghilev where Chiparus and others sculptors will find their inspiration source, representing in their works the elegant movement of the dance, the sensuality of their forms and poses, and the beauty of their exotic oriental dresses. Definitely the sculptures get a movement and balance where the artist portrays a sensation of volatility which could only be supplied by the ballet muses of that time as Ida Rubinstein, Nijinski and Isadora Duncan. These dancers are the catalysers of this static movement. Starting with Art Decó the feminine figure not only becomes in the most important element of inspiration and creativeness but it is shown in different ways. I t will be the image of the arrogant woman tempting, independent and modern.
Chiparus and other outstanding artist cared the selection of the materials (bronze, ivory, marble, onyx, enamels) as well as all the elaboration process till the minimum detail.
Their worked with the best gold. Smiths of the time who were generally French and German among others Edmon Etling, Julien Dreyfus who worked and last for Chiparus: Arthur Klessler was Preiss'goldsmith.
Sundry reproductions were made from these sculptures in different sizes and finishes (as gold, silver and enamels) and always in very quantities as they were made by hand or at least after the casting process finished by hand.
Only the bronzes were made in bigger amounts used for the decoration of homes.
Many are the Art Deco artist; we will mention only some them:D.ALONZO "Carmen"