Lautrec's design for L'Estampe Originale is one of modern printmaking's most enduring images. André Marty and Claude Roger-Marx established the publishing venture of the same name in 1893 in order to raise public awareness of printmaking as a genuine artistic activity. For this, the first cover of the series, Lautrec depicts in the foreground the renowned dancer Jane Avril (1868-1943), dressed in a salmon pink cloak and feathered hat, attentively studying a freshly pulled proof. In the background, the master printer at the Ancourt Atelier, Père Cotelle, is shown in the midst of printing as he turns the star wheel of the lithograph press.
The illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman and a Parisian demi-mondaine, Avril had made her reputation at the Moulin Rouge for her idiosyncratic and graceful routines. Delicately built, her alluring beauty was described by a contemporary commentator as that 'of a fallen angel;...exotic and excitable'. Moving within artistic circles, Avril's instinctive good taste and quick wits made her a favourite of literary gatherings, such as those held at the Chat Noir. In this lithograph, Lautrec clearly wished to recommend the artistic credentials of printmaking to the publication's subscribers by depicting the famous café-concert performer as the embodiment of cultural sophistication.