Lot 121
  • 121

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

900,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Elles
  • Suite of ten lithographs printed in colors, each with the artist's initials
  • Seven sheets: approx. 20 5/8 by 15 7/8 in; 52.3 by 40.3 cm
  • Five sheets: approx. 15 7/8 by 20 5/8 in.; 40.3 by 52.3 cm
The complete portfolio, comprising the lithographic cover printed in brown-black, the frontispiece and 10 lithographs printed in colors, 1896, the portfolio cover (Wittrock 155) signed in black crayon, each inscribed 'SeriĆ© no. 29' in brown ink by the publisher, Gustave Pellet, from the edition of 100, on wove paper with the 'G. Pellet/T. Lautrec' watermark  (12 prints)


Private Collection, Asia (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 8, 1997, lot 575)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner 


Loys Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré (XIXe et XXe Siècles), H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, vol. CI, Paris, nos. 179-89, illustrations of other examples
Jean Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec: His Complete Lithographs and Drypoints, New York, 1975, nos. 200-10, illustrations of other examples pp. 200-10
Wolfgang Wittrock, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Prints, London, 1985, nos. 155-65, illustrations of other examples pp. 376-99
Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec, The Complete Graphic Works, A Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1986, nos. 171-81, illustrations of other examples pp. 222-43
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Marcel Lender in "Chilperic" (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994-95, illustrations of other examples 
Richard Thomson, Philip Dennis Cate, Mary Weaver Chapin & Florence E. Coman, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. & The Art Institute of Chicago, 2005, illustrations of other examples pp. 229-35


The prints are in good condition with full sheets. Adhesive stains from prior mountings showing through on Wittrock 157 - 161 and adhesive stains only visible on the verso on W. 155.II, 162 - 165. Soft handling creases, only visible in raking light, on W. 155.I - 160. Inconspicuous time-stain at the extreme sheet edges of W. 155.II - 163. Additional imperfections in individual sheets include: Wittrock 151.I, 157, 162: Minor discolored spots the left side of the portfolio cover. W. 157, the verso, with a band of discoloration through the center of the sheet. W. 162, the verso, with pale discoloration in the top quarter of the sheet. W. 155.II, 156: A hinge-remnant in the top left sheet edge of the verso of each print. W. 156: Imperceptible from the recto, an occasional, skillfully repaired tear in the bottom right corner of the sheet, the longest measuring 3/4 of an inch. W. 161: Only visible in raking light, occasional, inconspicuous creases in the bottom and left side of the sheet.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

As a chronicler of the café culture and the night life in turn-of-the-century Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec had no rivals. Born into an aristocratic French family in 1864, Lautrec spent much of his life among the Parisian demi-monde, revealing his genius in sharp, analytical portrayals of the twilight world. A brilliant interpreter of this lively and debauched world, Lautrec did not limit himself—as so many of his contemporaries had done—to social critique. Whether it was the quick sketch of a face, the curving lines of a group of dancers, a scene in a café, at the Théâtre des Variétés or in a maison close, he succeeded in capturing the timeless humanity that lay beneath the illusory façades of his subjects.

Between the years of 1892 and 1895, Lautrec was a regular visitor to the maisons closes (brothels) of the rue des Moulins, the rue d'Ambroise and the rue Joubert, observing, sketching, and often living with the prostitutes for weeks at a time. Lautrec devoted Elles, an entire suite of prints to his experience at the brothels, seeking to portray them without the morality or overt eroticism common in other artists' depictions of similar subjects. Rather, he showed his subjects engaged in the everyday activities of grooming, bathing, dressing and sleeping. The one print that is an exception of the general, anonymous tone of the portfolio, and the only image which does not depict a prostitute, is the portrait of Cha-u-ka-o, a dancer (La Clownesse assise). Known for her acrobatic versions of erotic dances, Cha-u-ka-o is linked to the other subjects of the portfoilo as a practitioner of a form of popular entertainment frowned upon, but often patronized by the upper classes.

Executed in 1896 and published in an edition of 100 the same year, this portfolio is widely regarded as the artist's definitive work from this period, and one of the pinnacles of color lithography. Among the most prolific lithographers of the nineteenth century, Lautrec regarded this medium as a primary means of artistic expression in that it afforded him a greater flexibility and control than other graphic media. In these superb examples, Lautrec has combined the evocative and powerful primacy of line and the use of broad planes of color (derived from the immensely popular and influential Japanese woodblock prints) with original compositional designs and his extraordinary command of the technique. Often, bright colors are defused by splatterwork which promotes a more painterly approach to lithography. To achieve these textural effects, Lautrec used a toothbrush as well as the conventional lithographic crayons and fine brushes for the lines and detail work. The Elles suite highlights not only Lautrec's mastery of color lithography, but also his exploration of color, line, texture and paper.