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

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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