The photographer who shot this image, Dora Philippine Kallmus, known professionally as Madame D’Ora, was one of the great fashion photographers of the first half of the 20th century. Born in Vienna, she opened her first photography studio there in 1907 and a second gallery in Paris in the 1920s. She photographed many of the notable talents of that extraordinary era including Josephine Baker, Coco Channel, Tamara de Lampicka, Alban Berg and Collette.
Her subject here, Antonia Mercé y Luque (September 4,1890 – July 18,1936), was born in Buenos Aires to professional dancers. Father Manuel Mercé was of Andalusian decent and Mother Josephina Luque was Castilian. Despite their strong connection to native Spanish dance, they encouraged Antonia to study classical ballet and the family returned to Europe so she could pursue her career. Antonia debuted at Madrid’s Teatro Real at the age of nine and was Prima Ballerina at the Madrid Opera by the age of 11. Her father died shortly thereafter and under her mother’s tutelage, Antonia retired from ballet to rediscover and reinterpret traditional Spanish dances such as Flamenco, Jota Arogonesa and Bolero. Despite her fame, the lack of interest in the art form left Antonia, newly named “La Argentina,” little choice but to perform when she could in Madrid's small cafés, cantantés and music halls. However, the Parisians embraced her enthusiastically and from just before W.W.I until her death in 1936, La Argentina was considered the top Spanish dancer, dance historian and choreographer. With fame came many awards; she was inducted into the French Legion of Honor and the Spanish Orden de Isobel de Catolica and was invited by Rosa Ponselle to set the dances in her production of Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera. Madame D’Ora has captured La Argentina's theatricality, silent film era allure and bravura. The photograph was most likely taken at the height of La Argentina’s popularity as a performer in the mid-1920s. The artist continued to use it for the remainder of her too brief life. Condition: Unmounted, very good with a strong signature in Spanish and some expected yellowing due to age. Dimensions: 6" x 8.5".