The theatre, in all its multifaceted glory, was the one milieu where Lautrec felt truly at home. The portrayal of theatre life required technical virtuosity and a heightened sensitivity which called forth the best of his talents. He was interested in all the players - not just those who appeared in the glare of the spotlight. The audience also fascinated him, and he captured with masterly skill the type of people to be found gathered in ground-floor or grand circle boxes in Parisian theatres. The inhabitants of these were also part of the show, since they came not only to see, but to be seen. The boxes displayed the financially and socially better-off to the best advantage, and Lautrec used them as a vehicle to depict social, as opposed to stage, comedy.
Idylle Princière is, together with La Grande Loge (W. 177) his finest depiction of this intriguing social phenomenon. The identity of the subject is left deliberately ambiguous, as is that of the male figure approaching from the right - although his somewhat lascivious leer might lead our speculations in a certain direction. In many respects our curiosity as to the relationship between the two is exactly the sort of speculation that we might engage in were we in the stalls of a theatre, looking around us before the show begins.
Impressions of Idylle Princière appear very rarely on the market. The published edition of sixteen is extremely small, and seven of these are in public collections. The present impression is particularly noteworthy for the freshness of its colouring and shows the extent to which Lautrec had completely mastered the technique of lithography, with a whole range of marks including quick, sketch-like strokes, intense patches of flat colour, and above all the beautifully controlled spatter technique. Despite the fact that over a century has passed since this masterpiece was produced very few other artists have been able to demonstrate such command of the medium.