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La Danse au Moulin Rouge

La Danse au Moulin Rouge
lithograph in colours
on white China paper
signed and numbered 'T Lautrec / no. 3' in pencil (lower left)
a fine impression of this rare print, the colours very fresh
from an edition of twenty published by Gustave Pellet, Paris, with his monogram ink stamp (Lugt 1190; lower right)
Image & Sheet 415 x 347 mm.
Roger Marx (1859-1913), Paris (Lugt 2229); his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 27 April - 2 May 1914, lot 1185 (900 fr).
Carl Sachs (1868-1943), Breslau (Lugt 634a); his sale, C. G. Boerner, Leipzig, 6 November 1931, lot 369 (1000 RM).
Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935), Berlin (see Lugt 2785; Lugt 1840c).
Walther Scharf (1923-1996), Berlin, by descent from the above.
August Laube, Zurich.
Acquired from the above on 7 December 1981, and thence by descent to the present owners.
L. Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré: Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, vol. X, 1920, no. 208 (this impression cited; another impression illustrated).
J. Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec: His Complete Lithographs and Drypoints, London, 1965, p. 258 (another impression illustrated).
W. Wittrock, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Prints, London, 1985, no. 181, pp. 436 & 437 (another impression illustrated).
G. Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec: Das Gesamte Graphische Werk - Sammlung Gerstenberg, Cologne, 1986, no. 208, pp. 274, 276 & 277 (another impression illustrated).

R. Castleman & W. Wittrock, eds., Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Images of the 1890s, exh. cat., New York, 1986, no. 180, pp. 190 & 193 (another impression illustrated).
K. Koutsomallis, B. du Vignaud de Villefort, D. Devynck & G. Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Woman as Myth, exh. cat., Andros, 2001, no. 106 (another impression illustrated).
R. Thomson, P. D. Cate & M. W. Chapin, eds., Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, exh. cat., Washington D.C., 2005, no. 150, p. 132 (another impression illustrated).
J.A. Clarke, ed., The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec, Drawings and Prints from the Clark, exh. cat., New York, 2013, no. 55, p. 128 (another impression illustrated; detail pp. 118 & 119).
S. Suzuki, The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, exh. cat., New York, 2014, no. 15 (another impression illustrated).

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

A legendary figure in his own right, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's immersion in the world of the demi-monde of Paris reached its apex in the mid-1890s, during which he spent time living in brothels, visiting cafés, bars, and cabarets, and documenting the figures, both on and off the stage, whom he met and often befriended. Far from an ethnographer of Montmartre, he chose to capture the people who most captivated him.
La Danse au Moulin Rouge is an iconic depiction of lesbianism in nineteenth century art. Executed in 1897, the work vividly captures the clientele and atmosphere of the storied cabaret including some of Montmartre’s most famous figures. These include: Jane Avril, the solitary figure dancing with her back turned; the Australian painter Charles Conder, wearing a Homburg hat, to her right; and at extreme left, François Gauzi, another painter and acquaintance of Lautrec’s. In the foreground, facing towards the viewer, is the figure of Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O, featured in the series Elles in full stage regalia as La Clownesse, this time dressed casually and dancing with her female companion.
The theme of lesbianism – a source of fascination for many for the artist’s contemporaries and a social taboo to the bourgeoisie – was frequently taken up by Toulouse-Lautrec during this period in works such as Les Deux amies, now in the collection of Tate Modern. Beyond his own practice, the subject was popular in both literature and fine art owing, in part, to a resurgence of interest in Sappho, the ancient Greek poet, in the 19th century. While male homosexuality was illegal at this time, lesbianism was not and it largely escaped unnoticed. For Lautrec, Charles Baudelaire’s poem Femmes damnées, published in Fleurs du mal in 1857, was a particular inspiration, and many of the women who populated the dance halls and cabarets were lesbians including La Macarona and La Goulue. ‘Most of the women,’ notes David Sweetman, ‘in the scenes of singers and dancers were in fact lesbians and quite a few of them were lovers. So many, in fact, that it is possible to argue that lesbianism is the hidden subtext of much of Henri’s mature years. As chronicler of his age, this was perhaps inevitable given the increased visibility of the subject in the bars and cabarets of the Butte – some contemporary accounts speak of an explosion of Saphisme, as if half the women of Montmartre were falling into bed with each other’ (D. Sweetman, Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fin-de-Siècle, London, 1999, p. 358).
Still, though Lautrec was certainly more sympathetic to non-heteronormative relationships than much of society, it is hard to say how tolerant he actually was. While he depicted bourgeois men in the full-length format that was commonplace at this time, his representations of the working class women of Montmartre were less formal. Indeed, the depiction of biological and socioeconomic difference necessarily inscribed such difference and ‘irregularity’ into these works. (R. Thomson, ‘Introducing Montmartre’, in Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 67). Nevertheless, there is something to be said for imaging the truth of society and to show the world as it truly was – and the spaces that allowed people to freely express themselves.
Lautrec executed La Danse au Moulin Rouge on four lithographic stones, one for each colour, and a keystone printed in grey-black, using tusche crayon, brush, the spatter technique and scraper. The delicate gradations of tone created by the spatter technique allowed for only a small edition of twenty, and four known proofs. Of these at least thirteen are in public collections. According to our records only four impressions have been offered at auction in the last thirty years, making the present work particularly rare.

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