Rare Vintage Dance Posters

From the 1890s to the 1920s, the Great Age of the Poster coincided with several revolutions in the world of dance. From Loïe Fuller to Josephine Baker to the Ballets Russes, great strides were taken in transforming the possibilities of human movement into an expression of the human animal, at the dawn of the modern age. Poster artists like Gesmar frequently created both costumes and stage sets; the visual and the performing arts coalesced into one continuous line of affect that extended from the shock and wonder of the poster, into the dazzling arena of the theater.

395. Olympia / Brighton. 1893.
395. Olympia / Brighton. 1893.
Artist: Pal (Jean de Paléologue, 1860-1942)
30 3/4 x 49 3/8 in./78 x 125.3 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000.

Just as Pal was arriving to Paris from London, the Olympia was opening its doors to the public. Here, he’s clearly enjoying introducing two Parisian cancan girls to the seashore along Brighton’s famous pier, to promoite Leopold Wenzel’s “grand ballet.”

135. La Loïe Fuller. ca. 1896.
Artist: Louis Galice (1864-1935)
23 x 31 1/8 in./58.3 x 79 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

Galice’s vision of Loïe Fuller seems hewn out of Apocalyptic fires. A lava river courses toward the lower right, while spectators reach out their arms in awe and supplication. Bizarre forms in the crowd seem like agonized sauropods; Loïe herself rises out of the flame like an angel. It was not an overly fanciful depiction. In January 1897, Loïe took over the Paris Hippodrome (a cavernous circus venue) for her most ambitious production yet. In six tableaux, “lost souls wandered like ghosts through the heavens… clouds took various shapes… finally, everything turned red as she evoked the devil and the flames of hell consumed the damned” (Current, p. 176). Rare!

406. Clotilde et Alexandre Sakharoff. 1923.
Artist: Philippe Petit
23 1/2 x 31 1/2 in./59.8 x 80 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

The perfect geometries capture Clotilde and Alexander Sakharoff, one of the great dance pairs of the early 20th century. Alexander was born in the Russian Empire, and trained at the Academie de Beaux Arts in Paris, where he became one of the most innovative solo male dancers – and a favorite of artists, due to his androgynous appearance. He married the German dancer Clotilde; the two of them toured widely around the world, gaining the fascination of artists and fans wherever they went. “Clotilde Sakharoff and I did not dance with music or accompanied by music: we danced music,” Alexander wrote in his memoirs. The poster is affixed with a tax stamp from Antwerp in 1925.

388. Ninji et Stone. ca. 1930.
Artist: Obrad Nicolitch (1898-1976)
38 3/8 x 54 5/8 in./97.4 x 138.7 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500.

The Russian (abstract expressionist and Constructivist) influence is palpable in this outstanding Art Deco dance poster, in which the dancers’ bodies seamlessly fuse into the precise ideals of Euclidean geometry: parallel lines, circles, and arcs: they are held within a cantilevered tension, a crescent moon, and a red isosceles triangle. The dance duo is unknown; there’s a chance that Stone is Bentley Stone, the famous choreographer, dancer, and teacher who toured extensively in the 1930s and 1940s.

185. Reveillon. 1932.
185. Reveillon. 1932.
Artist: Joseph Aluma (1897-1975)
15 1/2 x 21 5/8 in./39.3 x 55 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200.

A surreal fantasy of Art Deco from Barcelona, this poster features a dancing girl wearing what looks to be a skunk, or a badger, around her midriff; beside her is a clock in metallic silver paint, with the hour chiming phallicly at XII. A design that was truly out there, even for its time.

133. Folies-Bergére / La Loïe Fuller. 1897.
133. Folies-Bergére / La Loïe Fuller. 1897.
Artist:Pal (Jean de Paléologue, 1860-1942)
23 1/4 x 31 1/8 in./59 x 79 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

One of the most iconic images of Loïe Fuller, Pal’s illustration catches both aspects of Fuller’s spectacle: the upswoop of the arms in her draperies, like the Winged Victory of Samothrace in kinetic action, along with the illusion of fire created by her lighting effects. The rarest of Pal’s five Loïe Fuller posters for the Folies-Bérgere, it’s also the most sensuous: illuminating the dancer bare-breasted, yet whirling in fabric

This is just the beginning…
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