All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

China Rhyming in Paris 2 – Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Clowness Cha-U-Kao

Posted: January 8th, 2014 | No Comments »

Who exactly was The Clowness Cha-U-Kao who featured in Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1895 painting of the same name?  Well, it seems Cha-U-Kao was a dancer and performer at Paris’s Nouveau Cirque and then the Moulin Rouge. Her Japanese sounding name originated from a phonetic transcription of the French ChaHut, a combination of the words for a more acrobatic version of the Can-Can and the French for chaos. It was a dance at which she excelled and the crowd went wild when she came on stage. She brought the skills of the circus to the cabaret and Toulouse-Lautrec obviously loved her.


img-thingHere’s a rather saucy shot of Cha-U-Kao and a headdress of possibly Indo-Chinoiserie inspiration

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