Superb Toulouse-Lautrec offerings at Swann Galleries’ Dec. 17 auction of Art Nouveau posters

On Wednesday, Dec. 17 Swann Galleries will offer an outstanding private collection of 11 posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and seven by Alphonse Mucha as part of their annual auction of Rare & Important Art Nouveau Posters. The posters are from the collection of Bob and Peggy Marcus, who assembled their collection over the course of 30 years. They continually sought out the finest examples, always with an eye on condition.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire these extraordinarily rare and important works in exceptional condition, ” said Nicholas Lowry, Swann President and Poster Specialist.

The auction’s top lot is a copy of Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, 1891, the artist’s first poster, in the very rare three-sheet version, and with the original top banner. Likely the single most important poster in the history of graphic arts, the enormous color lithograph advertises a performance by can-can dancer La Goulue at the famous cabaret. When the poster was first released, dealers found the size unmanageable and discarded the top banner, making versions with the original top virtually unavailable. The provenance goes back to Lautrec’s own estate, after which it passed on to his close friend, art dealer Maurice Joyant, and then descended to his heirs. (Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000).

Other featured works by Lautrec include The Chap Book, with an image of one of Lautrec’s favorite haunts, the Irish-American Bar at 33 Rue Royal. Not mounted on linen, this example in its original paper state is basically in the same condition as the day it was printed ($50,000 to $75,000); Salon des Cent, a poster also referred to as La Passagère du 54 or Promenade en Yacht, inspired by a beautiful young woman Lautrec met in the summer of 1895 when he was traveling by ship to visit his mother. The image was created from a photograph taken aboard the ship ($50,000 to $75,000); and La Loge au Mascaron Dorè [The Box with the Gilded Mask], which offers the artist’s only head-on view of a theater box—all others were shown from the side. This example is the work’s first state, which was printed in a run of only 100, with very wide margins, signed and numbered by the artist ($40,000 to $60,000).

Among the Mucha highlights in the collection are an exquisite 1896 image for Job rolling papers, which features the long, luxuriant tendrils of a young woman’s hair intertwining with the smoke from her cigarette, a recurring motif in Mucha’s posters ($20,000 to $30,000); Zodiac, 1896, an example of the full maturity of the artist’s style, with every one of his signature design elements represented, this is the original version of the image, published as a calendar by Champenois ($15,000 to $20,000); Reverie, 1897, one of Mucha’s most popular designs, this version with no text was sold to collectors and connoisseurs ($15,000 to $20,000); and a previously unknown variant of the Times of the Day, a calendar used to advertise a Parisian store specializing in signs and window shades ($12,000 to $18,000).

Notable works by Mucha among the material from other consignors are the celebrated Bières de la Meuse, 1897, considered a classic in its own time ($30,000 to $40,000); Monaco, Monte-Carlo, a lush and symbolic image, 1897 ($20,000 to $30,000); and Flirt, a romantic advertisement for Lefevre-Utile biscuits, 1899 ($8,000 to $12,000).

Belgian Art Nouveau is represented by a small run of works by Privat Livemont, including his masterpiece Absinthe Robette, Brussels, 1896 ($12,000 to $18,000); and Adolphe Crespin’s poster for the famous architect and designer Paul Hankar, Brussels, 1894 ($8,000 to $12,000).

Desirable Italian posters include Leonardo Bistolfi’s Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, Turin, 1902, depicting muses dancing in a field ($10,000 to $15,000); and Giovanni Mataloni’s La Tribuna Roma, for a Rome newspaper, 1897 ($4,000 to $6,000).

The auction also includes several works by Jules Cheret, among them Palais de Glace, depicting elegant ice skaters, Paris, 1896 ($12,000 to $18,000), and a set of four panels representing The Arts, a triumph of color lithography ($40,000 to $60,000); Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s Lait Pur Stérilisé, 1894, featuring his signature cats ($20,000 to $30,000); Maurice Biais’s La Maison Moderne, 1900, promoting a store devoted to the Art Nouveau finery of the day ($8,000 to $12,000); and two of O’Galop’s posters for Michelin picturing the iconic Bibendum, aka the Michelin Man, Nunc est Bibendum / Le Pneu Michelin Boit l’Obstacle, circa 1898 ($6,000 to $9,000), and Le Coup de la Semelle Michelin, 1913 ($5,000 to $7,500).

Rounding out the sale are works by Cappiello, Grasset and Pal. There are examples from the German Secession; American works by Bradley; and posters promoting champagne, chocolate, and much more.

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17. The items will be on public exhibition Saturday, Dec. 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, Dec. 15 and Tuesday, Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon.

A fully illustrated color catalog with information on bidding by mail or fax is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at www.swanngalleries.com.

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid during the auction, please contact Gwendolyn Rayner at 212-254-4710 ext. 53, or via e-mail at grayner@swanngalleries.com.

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More Images:

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HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901) MOULIN ROUGE / LA GOULUE. Maîtres de l'Affiche pl. 122. 1898. 15 3/4 inches by 11 1/2 inches. Chaix, Paris. Condition B+: tears and creases at edges; losses in corners. Paper. Estimate $2,000-$3,000. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
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JULES CHÉRET (1836-1932) PALAIS DE GLACE. 1896. 46 3/4 inches by 34 1/4 inches. Chaix, Paris. Between 1895 and 1900, Chéret designed a gallery of skating girls, sometimes depicted alone and sometimes with a companion, for the Palais de Glace, an ice-skating rink located on the Champs-Elysées. All are gracious and charming pieces. Here, a blonde in an elaborate red and orange outfit is gently gliding across the ice, her body creating a diagonal across the poster. Her escort, as in all posters of this series, is depicted in far less clarity and color. Estimate $12,000-$18,000. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
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HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901) MOULIN ROUGE. 1891. 76 inches by 46 inches. Ch. Levy, Paris. Condition B+: repaired tears, creases and restoration in margins and image. Three sheets. Matted and framed. Estimate $250,000-$350,000. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

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