Romain de Tirtoff (23 November 1892 – 21 April 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by thepseudonym Erté, from the French pronunciation of his initials (pronounced: [ɛʁ.te]). He was a diversely talented 20th-century artist and designer who flourished in an array of fields, including fashion, jewellery, graphic arts, costume and set design for film, theatre, and opera, and interior decor.
Tirtoff was born Roman Petrovich Tyrtov (Роман Петрович Тыртов) in Saint Petersburg, to a distinguished family with roots tracing back to 1548. His father, Pyotr Ivanovich Tyrtov, served as an admiral in the Russian Fleet.
By far, his best known image is Symphony in Black, depicting a somewhat stylized, tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog on a leash. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.
Erté continued working throughout his life, designing revues, ballets, and operas. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the Art Deco revival. He branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes, and wearable art.
Two years before his death, Erté created seven limited edition bottle designs for Courvoisier to show the different stages of the cognac-making process, from distillation to maturation. In 2008, the eighth and final of the remaining Erte-designed Courvoisier bottles, containing Grande Champagne cognac dating back to 1892, was released and sold for $10,000 a piece.
His work may be found in the collections of several well-known museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); as well, a sizable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.