Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster brings $300,000 at Swann auction

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) Chocolat Masson/ Chocolat Mexicain/ Four Seasons. 1896. 16 3/4 inches by 26 3/4 inches. F. Champenois, Paris. Matted and framed. These images were used for Chocolat Masson's 1897 calendar. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

Swann Galleries’ annual auction of Rare & Important Art Nouveau Posters on Dec. 17 featured a major private collection of posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha. The star item, Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, 1891, in the very rare three-sheet version with the original top banner sold to a private collector bidding by telephone for $300,000. All prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Likely the single most important work in the history of posters, it was the first poster created by Lautrec as well as his first use of lithography. The oversized color lithograph illustrates a can-can dancer at the famous cabaret. The provenance of this well-preserved copy was also notable as ownership was traced back to Lautrec’s estate.

Within the Art Nouveau movement, there was no poster artist more celebrated than Alphonse Mucha, and the auction contained many of his most renowned images. These included his famous poster advertising Job rolling papers, Paris, 1896, $26,400; a shimmering vision of a nude with the artist’s signature “macaroni” hair in Salon des Cents / XXeme Exposition, Paris, 1896, $18,000; and Bières de la Meuse, a sumptuous image promoting a French beer brewers’ association, Paris, 1897, $31,200.

The sale also offered several works by Jules Chéret, the Belle Époque artist considered the “father of the poster.” Among them was a set of four lovely decorative panels from 1891 depicting Les Arts, which brought $40,800.

A wonderful example of Italian Art Nouveau was Leonardo Bistolfi’s poster for Prima Esposizione Internazionale D’Arte Decorativa Moderna, Turin, 1902, the first international exhibition of modern decorative art, $13,475; and a proof before letters of an advertisement for Helm Cocoa, 1900, by the Belgian master Privat Livemont, realized $9,600.

Other sale highlights included Paul Berthon’s Salon des 100 / 17e Exhibition, Paris, 1897, $9,000; Maurice Biais’s La Maison Moderne, Paris, 1900, $13,200; and Auguste Roubille’s Spratt’s Patent Ltd., Paris, circa 1909, $11,400.

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More Images:

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Moulin Rouge. 1891. 76 inches by 46 inches. Price realized: $300,000. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), Bieres de la Meuse. 1897. 58 inches by 38 3/4 inches. F. Champenois, Paris. Matted and framed. This is one of Mucha's most renowned images. The central figure is a sensuous and delectable young daydreamer, whose hair is filled with the hops, barley and malt from which beer is brewed and whose hand absent-mindedly caresses a stein of foamy beer. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
Firmin Bouisset (1859-1925), Chocolat du Sport. 1895. 54 1/2 inches by 38 3/4 inches. Camis, Paris. Despaul-Havez chocolates date back to 1848. The company received many prizes and medals all around the world. By 1893, the company began expanding, launching new products and using a lot of advertising to promote their brand. In a scene that doesn't relate at all to sport, Bouisset depicts three charming children grabbing pieces of chocolate from a chocolate grinder. Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.

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