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Le crocodile (menu)

Le crocodile (menu)
lithograph, on Japon paper, 1896, a fine impression of Wittrock's very rare first state (of two), before text, with wide margins, occasional soft handling creases, otherwise in very good condition, framed
Image: 12 ¾ x 8 7/8 in. (323 x 226 mm.)
Sheet: 21 1/8 x 15 in. (535 x 380 mm.)
Franz Wilhelm Koenigs (1881-1941), Haarlem.
Acquired by the above circa 1900-1920 (according to the family); thence by descent to the present owners.
Delteil 200; Adhémar 224; Wittrock 175; Adriani 199

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Lot Essay

This comical tableaux was created for a menu for a dinner given on 23 December 1896. It was inspired by a visit with friends to the Château de Blois, where Lautrec had been entertained with the story of the daring night-time escape of Marie de Medici from a window in the château. In his version Lautrec casts his travel companions as characters in the tale. The queen is depicted as a young woman clad only in a black knee-high sock. She is being manfully rescued from a grinning crocodile, representing the gallerist and print publisher Maurice Joyant, by the portly figure of a man in his night shirt and cap, the photographer Maurice Guibert. The large nosed and bespeckled apparition observing the scene from above is the artist's cousin Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. In a rare act of self-portraiture, the artist includes himself, wearing a checked shirt and braces with straw hat, sketching the burlesque scene from below.
Wittrock records three impressions of the first state before text, all unsigned. A further five impressions of this state with text are known, four of which are in public collections. Two impressions of the second state (showing only the self-portrait lower left) are recorded, one of which is in the collection of the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi.
Only one impression, of the first state formerly in the collection of Charell, has been offered at auction in the last thirty years: Sotheby's New York, 17-18 November 1993, lot 942 ($14,950); then Sotheby's New York, 1-2 November 2012, lot 187 ($30,000).

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