Loïe Fuller “dazzled an entire epoch,” in the words of critic Georges Martin. An American in Paris in the 1890s, she gave birth to modern dance in the City of Light by transforming the possibilities of light. By projecting spotlights – continually morphing in color through translucent gels – upon her voluminous, butterfly-like skirts, she didn’t just use special effects. She was a special effect. Paving the way for Isadora Duncan and Josephine Baker, at one time she was the most famous dancer in the world – and the most imitated. The 16 lithographs of Loïe and her followers in our October 22 auction are so rare, several have never been seen by even the world’s foremost scholars on the subject. Here’s a preview:
23 3⁄4 x 31 3⁄4 in./60.2 x 80.5 cm
This anonymous work may be the first French poster ever created for Loïe Fuller. She had debuted the “Serpentine Dance” during an American East Coast tour in 1891-92, before arriving in France at the Folies-Bergère on November 5, 1892. Still photographs from early 1892 bear a resemblance to the composition, with hands holding outstretched skirts. An 1892 description of her performance, which she tried to copyright, notes a “butterfly effect” which the artist has interpreted as a ‘magic-lantern’ show; “Loïe’s” face is more stock-in-trade than later depictions. Sight unseen, however, the artist has nailed the unique nature of Fuller’s work: the dazzling and kaleidoscopic light-show of her own design, using chemical compounds for color gels and chemical salts for luminescent lighting, for which she was granted US Patent 518347. This poster therefore represents the spark of her global fame.
37 x 51 5⁄8 in./94 x 131.2 cm Est: $4,000-$5,000.
Rare! A thoroughly incendiary image by Pal, presumably for the debut of Loïe Fuller’s “Fire Dance,” which premiered in 1895. For this piece, “she invented a glass pedestal that she lit from below as well (as well of instead of just from the sides or above, as was customary) to create the stunning effect of a fire growing and then dying. A technician beneath the pedestal operated lights and, again cued by Fuller’s movements, switched out different colored gels to create red, blue, orange, and purple glows. Fuller also shrouded the rest of the stage in black to make the result even more dramatic.” (Lyz Hazelton, The Loie Fuller Project).
29 7⁄8 x 48 1⁄4 in./76 x 122.5 cm Est: $1,700-$2,000.
A breathtaking, fiery announcement of the extraordinary Mademoiselle Bob Walter: no Loïe Fuller; but legend in her own right. Born in French Algeria, she emigrated to Paris after the deaths of her parents, and, in her mid-thirties, leapt into performance around 1890, changing her name from Baptistine Dupré. She recited poetry, performed mime, danced… and alighted upon the game-changing ideas of Loïe Fuller. For a few years, she’d perform with the lion tamer Georges Marck (see No. 105). Around the time this poster was printed, her stage career was ending. A newspaper critic had given her a harsh review; she found him and beat him about the face, with a key ring in her hand. The public turned from her. But this was only Act One for Bob Walter. She then became the first woman to open an auto garage in Paris, won two auto races in 1902, and then – astonishingly – invented a highly lucrative elopement business. She’d plan wedding getaways, then used her fastest car as a “Cupid Car” to “abduct” brides-to-be off the street.
35 1⁄4 x 48 3⁄8 in./89.6 x 122.7 cm
An absolute showstopper of kaleidoscopic splendor for Emilienne d’Alençon: as close to the designs of Wes Wilson and the Psychedelic ‘60s shows at the Fillmore as we’ve ever seen from a Fin-de-Siècle poster. Emilienne, on her own, was just as far-out: a snake dancer and a courtesan, she was the mistress for a time of industrialist Étienne Balsan, who counted Coco Chanel among his conquests.
26 x 37 1⁄8 in./66 x 94.4 cm
This is not an acid flashback: that’s a dog named Miss Dublin, looking quite fetching in her gown of many pastel colors. She’s the star of the show; behind her (not pictured) is that pack of dancing hounds from Dog Dancing College under the tutelage of Professor Richard. The studio of Cândido Aragonez de Faria, a well- known posterist, is credited, and Faria himself may have been the designer.