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Romance and Heartbreak: A Valentine’s Special

Romance And Heartbreak: A Valentine’s Special

Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.
― Lady Gaga

Ah, Valentine’s Day—a contentious time for many. Whether you plan to happily celebrate the day with your loved one, opt for a casual gathering with friends, or brood in your single-person despair, there’s a poster that relates. In any case, we suggest pairing a generous glass of wine with your perusal of these posters from our 80th Rare Posters Auction.

15. Colored Man is No Slacker. 1918.
11 3/4 x 15 7/8 in./30 x 40.2 cm
Est: $800 - $1,000

The struggle between romantic love and love of one’s country is ages old—and always pertinent. For this World War One enlistment ad, an African American infantry unit marches with the American flag held aloft as a couple tenderly says goodbye. The text, “Colored Man is No Slacker,” means that he’s no draft-dodger and must choose personal sacrifice to benefit the nation.

22. Bal des Employés de Banque. 1927.
By François Clérice & Victor Clérice (1880-1947)
28 3/4 x 44 1/8 in./73.2 x 112 cm
Est: $1,700 - $2,000

“The Most Chic Party of the Year” was a snazzy affair for bank employees held at the Hotel de la Paix—and it boasts the perfect setting for a flirtatious dance, as exemplified by the stylish young couple hitting it off on the dance floor.

28. La Sirène des Tropiques. 1927.
By René Péron (1904-1972)
46 1/8 x 62 3/4 in./117.2 x 159.5 cm
Est: $2,500 - $3,000

Romance, of course, carries with it the potential for devastation, and here Josephine Baker’s character has just been spurned by her lover. The film, “La Sirène des Tropiques,” was Baker’s 1927 film debut; she played Papitou, an island girl who falls in love with a visiting Frenchman who decides to stay faithful to the girl back home. Baker’s reaction is to burst out into frenzied dance—a quite appropriate expression of her anxious feelings.

132. Phébus. ca. 1899.
By Pal (Jean de Paléologue, 1860-1942)
42 3/4 x 56 3/4 in./108.5 x 144.2 cm
Est: $2,000 - $2,500

Another lover scorned—this time it’s Columbina, who’s been left behind by the perennially lovelorn commedia dell’arte clown Pierrot. He’s speeding off on Phébus’ motorized tricycle, bidding a cheerful adieu to his beau and her bicyclette. By 1899, the “bicycle craze” of the previous decade, with all the overtures toward greater female independence, was morphing into the Automobile Age, and this poster finds the Phébus brand in the midst of this transition. With its hints of Theseus abandoning Ariadne on Naxos (we, as Dionysus, are here to comfort her), this is a magnificent work of bold, tender, and curious emotions.

145. Manufacture Roubaisienne. ca. 1900.
38 3/4 x 51 3/4 in./98.4 x 131.3 cm
Est: $1,500 - $2,000

Apparently, Pierrot realized his wrongdoing, returned to his trusty bicycle, and won his lady back. She graciously accepted, and the two pedaled off in cosmic bliss. But now that they’re high above the earth’s atmosphere, Pierrot seems a bit unbalanced—is he having second thoughts? We hope Columbine won’t fall prey to his wandering whims again.

182. Voisin. 1922.
By Joë Bridge (Jean Barrez, 1886-1967)
22 x 28 3/4 in./56 x 73 cm
Est: $1,400 - $1,700

Just imagine how difficult it must have been to make a romantic fool of yourself before the arrival of the automobile. Not only would the element of surprise be diminished, but one has to assume that travel time would often cool the mood. Here, this pajama-clad Romeo couldn’t even wait to change out of his bedclothes to see his delighted Lady Love, a sight altogether shocking to her decorous Jack Russell. And the transport of choice? Why, a Voisin of course—the perfect luxury vehicle for the well-heeled amorous impulsive.

234. Abadie. ca. 1925.
By Mihály Biró (1886-1948)
37 3/8 x 97 3/4 in./95 x 248.3 cm
Est: $3,500 - $4,000

Biró was best known for his political and anti-war posters in Hungary, but during his Vienna period (1910-1928), he created many posters for commercial products. “In contrast to his political posters which were mostly printed in two colors and were designed according to the seriousness of their contents, the posters for art and commerce were mostly colorful and often times carried by a sense of humor and a cleverly staged lightness” (Biró, p. 25). Here, he ingeniously turns the brand name into the base for a boudoir light, suggesting that Abadie cigarette rolling papers isn’t the only thing smoldering in the room. A sensually rare, two-sheet design.

264. Florio / S.O.M. 1911.
By Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942)
50 1/8 x 77 1/2 in./127.5 x 197 cm
Est: $7,000 - $9,000

For those post-breakup or in the midst of a dry spell, take a cue from Cappiello’s Florio girls for an empowering Valentine’s Day: round up your lady friends, stock up on wine, and dance. A heart-shaped pizza doesn’t hurt, either. Cheers!

320. Folies-Bergère / La Belle et La Bête. ca. 1899.
By Alfred Choubrac (1853-1902)
37 x 50 1/2 in./94 x 128.3 cm
Est: $1,400 - $1,700

This may be a ballet of “The Beauty and the Beast,” but Choubrac has no beasts in this adorable work—merely two beautiful people in love. Behind them, a troupe of ballerinas celebrate the union of the two with garlands of spring flowers and trails of autumn leaves.

365. Le Pôle Nord : Maquette. 1890.
By Albert Guillaume (1873-1942)
14 1/8 x 19 3/8 in./35.8 x 49 cm
Est: $2,000 - $2,500

One of the loveliest compositions created for Le Pôle Nord skating rink, this romantic design speaks to the elegance and sophistication of the venue’s guests—and it’s a perfectly timely scene.

371. Safe Sex! 1987.
By Keith Haring (1958-1990)
27 1/4 x 29 1/2 in./69.2 x 75 cm
Est: $800 - $1,000

Unless you and your loved one are hoping for a little one, take this tip from Keith Haring to add a bit of protection to your festivities.

402. Il Mattino. 1896.
By Giovanni Mataloni (1869-1944)
45 1/2 x 65 5/8 in./115.5 x 166.7 cm
Est: $5,000 - $6,000

For single women who rule their domain, this poster is for you. This sensuous, unencumbered design is meant to promote, of all things, a newspaper. A larger-than-life nude basks by the seaside, her head reclining into the trees, her pose orgiastic, the earth beneath her fertile. The sun, anthropomorphized, gazes upon her either with longing or wonder. Is she Eve, relishing in sin? Or is she Gaea, giving birth to all the landscapes and creatures of Earth? We may never know, but Mataloni’s two-sheet design for the daily newspaper Il Mattino is a remarkable example of Italian Art Nouveau tinged with Jugendstil—and an artist’s vision of unbridled dynamism.

419. Flirt. 1899.
By Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
11 x 24 1/4 in./28 x 61.5 cm
Est: $7,000 - $9,000

A quintessential image for Valentine’s Day: “Flirt” was a brand of biscuit sold by Lefèvre-Utile, but that becomes almost irrelevant to admirers of this classic depiction of love blossoming. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to avoid falling in love with the Victorian elegance on display, with romantic effusiveness held at bay—with difficulty!—for the moment. You can just barely see the baker’s L-U logo patterned on the damsel’s dress, and doesn’t that just take the biscuit?

462. Harper’s / August / Tom Sawyer Detective. 1896.
By Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
13 5/8 x 18 3/4 in./34.6 x 47.5 cm
Est: $1,200 - $1,500

Sometimes, love is actually quite banal. These two seem to be stewing after a disagreement, but they’re going to sit together anyway, and look quite chic while doing it. Penfield reminds us that romance isn’t always about grand gestures—it’s about those subtle in-between moments together as well.

509. Moulin Rouge.
By E. Villefroy
46 1/4 x 62 3/4 in./117.5 x 159.4 cm
Est: $4,000 - $5,000

With all the amorous notions in the air, Valentine’s Day can sometimes get the best of us—as is the case with this older man on the prowl for his date. The crowd outside the Moulin Rouge proves to surge with attractive possibilities, but I’m afraid he’s out of luck: these two stylish ladies seem perfectly content with their plan for a ladies’ night at the cabaret.

This is just the beginning…
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