Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, apart from being widely known as a French painter from the post-impressionnist period, was often commissioned to produce printed posters to advertise entertaining subjects.
Remarkably expressive, this French poster created at the request of photographer Paul Sescau, has much to say about Toulouse-Lautrec’s fine rendering of personnalities…
The photographer Paul Sescau was one of Lautrec’s drinking companions. His reputation among his friends was that of a lady’s man, and he was commonly supposed to entice women into his studio for photographic purposes then seduce them.
Here, Sescau’s intended model seems to race out of the picture frame, cropped on three sides as she flees his scrutiny. A marvellously nervous creature, dressed for a masked ball in a fluttery domino and mask, perhaps she was posing in her costume until realizing the photographer’s amorous intentions behind his camera cloth. Her lorgnette indicates that she has inspected the situation, and the pattern of question marks on her costume suggests her state of confusion and doubt.
This is Lautrec at his best, naughty but wry, economic, and absolutely intrepid in exploiting compositional inconsistencies. The yellow of the lady’s yellow mask is a rarity, found only in a few known impressions of this poster.
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