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The Rennert’s Reserve Vault

The Rennert’s Reserve Vault

During our time of shelter-in-place, we launched the Rennert’s Reserve email as a way to virtually open the gallery to our revered collectors. Each week, Jack Rennert selects 5 must-have posters to offer at very special prices. If you’ve missed any of our previous emails or would like to revisit previous offerings that have not been claimed, the Vault serves as a platform to view availabilities. There is one copy of each poster available, and they are first-come, first served.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Chap Book. 1896.
Size: 23 3/8 x 16 in./59.5 x 40.6 cm
Condition: A. Framed.
Price: $29,500

Toulouse-Lautrec’s penchant for whimsy and terse observation shines in The Chap Book. To promote sales of the Chicago periodical in France, Lautrec turned to his favorite haunt, the Irish American Bar at 33 rue Royale, where he was said to be found every afternoon. According to Julia Frey, “Henri presided over the clients in the bar as he had over his guests, insisting to Ralph [the bar keeper] that people he didn’t like not be admitted” (Frey, p. 390). Here, the king of his domain oversees the gleaming mahogany bar and its patrons, including Ralph, “a Chinese-Indian bar-keeper, who with stoical calm served the British jockeys and trainers and local coachmen who frequented the bar. Here, too, the florid figure of Tom… the Rothschild’s coachman, a particular favorite with Lautrec for his supercilious manner… is visible among the customers being served by Ralph with a special concoction” (Adriani, p. 196). In his characteristic style, Lautrec evokes subtle gestures and interpersonal relations with the most economic use of line and color. The method is both refined and scintillating—I, too, would like Lautrec’s permission to sit beside his esteemed peers and have a drink.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Divan Japonais. 1893.
Size: 23 3/4 x 31 5/8 in./60.3 x 80.3 cm
Condition: A. Framed.
Price: $32,000.

When I think of Toulouse-Lautrec, this image immediately comes to mind. Using an off-kilter perspective and a strong depth of field, it’s as if the artist has plunked us down right in the center of the café concert. The great and famous performer, Yvette Guilbert, is performing, but Lautrec does not want us to focus on her—he’s placed her somewhat indistinctly in the poorly-lit background and has even gone to the length of deliberately cutting her head off. Instead, he invites us to admire the lithe and powerful figure of his friend Jane Avril. She has just the hint of a smile, as if she’s in on a private joke with the artist. She is accompanied—or, more likely, being accosted—by noted critic Edouard Dujardin, no doubt with amorous intentions, but Avril’s faintly bemused expression indicates that she is used to this, and will be able to handle him without any trouble. Lautrec’s use of deep black adds emphasis to Avril as the focal point, and his keen sense of splatter effectively separates the edges of her dress from the less important dark mass of the bar and the orchestra. This particular printing boasts especially vibrant colors.

Armand Rassenfosse, Cigarettes Job. 1910.
Size: 37 1/4 x 51 3/4 in./94.5 x 131.6 cm
Condition: B/Slight tears at folds.
Price: $4,000

For me, Rassenfosse’s design rates as an equal to the more famous 1898 Job by Mucha. His posters have a directness and simplicity that bring them an immediate attention. Here, he uses a bold color palette, and for some reason, he has chosen a Spanish motif; it was probably easier, in 1910, to imagine a “gypsy” woman smoking a cigarette than having a more genteel girl indulge in such unladylike behavior. According to Weber, women who smoked “belonged to the lower orders or to criminal classes… By the 1890s one begins to hear of respectable women smoking, but they were either eccentrics or feminists.” I, for one, find his rule-breaking smoker to be a total charmer—and her orange serape, blue paisley blanket, and emerald green skirt form the perfect union of color that nearly vibrates, making it hard to look away.

Charles Gesmar, Mistinguett. ca. 1924.
Size: 46 1/2 x 62 1/4 in./118.2 x 158 cm
Condition: B+/Slight tears at folds.
Price: $3,600

Gesmar created 55 posters and designed thousands of costumes for Mistinguett, and this is one of his rarest works. At just 15 years old, Gesmar began designing costumes for Parisian cabaret stars and contributed illustrations to magazines including Le Rire. Two years later—after a failed suicide attempt—he met Mistinguett who immediately adored him. She described him as “one of those gentle, ultra-sensitive lads, so feminine that you felt one harsh word would have shattered him.” It is perhaps this sensitivity that guided his ingenious depictions of Mistinguett donning various personas and displaying a wide range of emotive and performative qualities. Here, Mistinguett flirtatiously smokes a pearl-encrusted pipe as she glances coyly over her shoulder. She’s shown in the “Bonjour Paris” revue of 1924-25.

Alphonse Mucha, Sarah Bernhardt / American Tour. 1896.
Size: 28 7/8 x 77 1/4 in./73.5 x 196 cm
Condition: B+/Slight tears at folds.
Price: $12,000

In the Christmas season of 1894, Sarah Bernhardt’s theatre needed a poster for their production of Gismonda; Mucha stepped in to fulfill the rush order, and the rest, as they say, is history. The ornamental design was such a huge success that Bernhardt and Mucha became overnight sensations—and a creative partnership was cemented. Two years later, Mucha adapted that inspired design for Bernhardt’s tour of the United States. In a perfect circle of artistic divinity, this design did for Americans what Gismonda did for Parisians: it turned them into avid fans of both the performer and the posterist. And rightfully so: the design is a tour de force. Mucha portrays Bernhardt as both piously sensitive and statuesque; her flowing garment and the mosaic details carry the weight of Grecian sobriety, while the warm pastel tones softly grace the scene. It’s an utterly divine image—and an iconic example of le style Mucha.

Alphonse Mucha, The Seasons / Winter. 1900.
Size: 12 3/8 x 27 3/4 in./31.5 x 69.8 cm
Condition: A-/Slight stains at edges. Framed.
Price: $8,000

I’ve always been enraptured by Mucha’s Four Seasons—his depictions are romantic, playful, and creative interpretations of our yearly weather patterns. The 1896 series was so well received that he was asked to create a new quartet in 1900, which is equally resplendent in its conception. Winter is one of his most tender embodiments: swaddled in a cloak amidst snow-laden branches, she peers out at us, perhaps beckoning us to join her in this romantic tundra. The star-studded border adds an additional layer of allure, and this printing includes a poem: WINTER protects itself against the cold with the serenity of nature’s sleep. Most notably, this variant is printed on silk, which lends the image an incredible luster.

Soler, Josephine Baker / Politeama. 1949.
Size: 29 x 42 5/8 in./74 x 108.4 cm
Condition: A-/Slight abrasions.
Price: $2,200

I’ve always loved posters for Josephine Baker; her range of expressions and styles have been interpreted by so many posterists, which has provided us with a veritable visual archive of the performer through the ages. Here, the otherwise unknown Soler promotes an Argentine appearance in 1949, when Baker was managed by her then-husband, Jo Bouillon. This was but one appearance on a sporadic Latin American tour that began in 1947 with engagements in Mexico and concluded with a stop in Cuba in 1950. The photograph here was used as a publicity image by Baker for over a decade, and its use continued even after the blush of youth dissipated.

Leonetto Cappiello, Cognac Gautier Frères. ca. 1907.
Size: 46 x 62 3/8 in./117 x 158.5 cm
Condition: A.
Price: $7,000

Although Gautier is one of France’s oldest cognac distillers, I don’t think there’s anything old-fashioned about this ebullient eyeful bringing forth her vineyard-fresh bounty. I’d expect her to appear at least slightly burdened beneath the heft of these hardy bunches as she trips the vine fantastic; the knowledge that she’s delivering a taste this enormous, however, keeps the spring in her step. This enterprise, which survives to this day, was established by Guy Gautier in 1697. Gautier’s success was partly due to the fact that he sided with the insurrectionists in one of the religious wars that took place in his time; when they won, he was named governor of the Cognac province, and he in turn passed its name to the brandy he had produced. The cognac is still produced to this day, and this design by Cappiello stands out as the most whimsically vibrant design to promote the brand.

Leonetto Cappiello, Lampe Osmine. 1910.
Size: 46 1/4 x 62 1/4 in./117.5 x 158 cm
Condition: B+/Slight tears at folds.
Price: $5,500

This is quintessential Cappiello devilry: a magenta dancing demon is used to promote, of all things, a light company. Why, you ask? Well, originally, this image was used to promote Lampe Faust. Though I can’t rationalize the company’s decision to use a name associated with the forces of darkness to sell a light-emitting product, Cappiello was all too keen to toy with the contradiction. Here, he’s used that same image to promote another product from the same company; this time, under the neutral name of Lampe Osmine. At this point, the visual impact of the image alone engages the imagination and concretizes the visual association with the company. I’ve always admired Cappiello’s ability to pair dissonant ideas to create an indelible image.

Leonetto Cappiello, Femme Espagnole. 1917.
Size: 28 1/4 x 32 in./53.3 x 81.2 cm
Condition: Signed gouache & crayon painting. Framed.
Price: $10,000

As I’m sure you all know by now, Cappiello holds a very special place in my heart, and it’s always a delight to see his one-of-a-kind works. This signed gouache and crayon painting portrays a colorful yet modestly dressed Spanish woman posing in her silk shawl, otherwise known as a mantón de Manila. Cappiello contrasts the sea greens and aquamarine blue of her outfit with a splash of coral red around her neck, which is repeated in her lipstick and blush. It’s a delightful and summery scene, and a rare look at Cappiello’s softer and more traditional artistic approach.

Adolphe Crespin, Paul Hankar Architecte. 1894.
Size: 15 3/4 x 21 1/4 in./40 x 54 cm
Condition: A.
Price: $6,500

Although architecture is far outside of my wheelhouse, I’ve always found this poster to be quite relatable: a man is seen in his beloved work environment, lost in the enjoyment of the task at hand. In fact, we rarely see posters for professional services—so this advertisement for Paul Hankar, one of Belgium’s best Art Nouveau architects, is really something special. To promote Hankar’s exteriors, Crespin takes an inward dive to illuminate the life within. In this perfectly proportioned work, symbolic forms—from compasses to honeycombs, rulers and protractors—surround the architect as an expression of his own mind. As Beaumont wrote, “The warm and vivid coloring further adds, if that’s possible, to the merit of this print which remains one of the best—if not the very best—of Crespin.”

Charles Gesmar, Simone Dulac. 1925.
Size: 47 1/8 x 62 3/8 in./119.6 x 158.3 cm
Condition: B/Slight stains at folds and edges.
Price: $3,800

While I often relate Gesmar with his designs for Mistinguett, the artist had an incredible range of clients and produced an array of prodigious images in his incredibly short life. Here, he’s stepped out with Simone Dulac for a moment, bringing his characteristic lines, baubles, and adornments to fashion an image projecting flirtatiousness, eroticism, and a knowing wit. She’s shown in the role of Micheline in the play Amours Délices, and in a somewhat idealized form. Other posters by Adrien Barrère, as well as contemporary photos, portray her much as she was: a comic character actress, rather than a showgirl starlet, with parts in the comedies Je Suis un Homme Perdu (I Am a Lost Man) and Le Loup Garou (The Werewolf). As such, this marvelously evocative lithograph is also quite rare.

Luciano Achille Mauzan, Amaro Spech. 1922.
Size: 52 x 76 1/4 in./132 x 194 cm
Condition: B-/Tears at folds.
Price: $3,200

I’ve always admired Mauzan’s ability to be simultaneously strange and laughingly charming. This is a classic example of Mauzan’s unique style: the hypnotized man enchanted by his freshly poured glass of Amaro lets us know that no matter your birthplace, you, too, can be entranced by Amaro Spech. Perhaps this will inspire your next quarantine happy hour.

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Mothu et Doria. 1893.
Size: 37 1/2 x 51 in./95 x 129.4 cm
Condition: B+/Slight tears at folds and edges.
Price: $4,500

I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery of this poster by Steinlen; what exactly is he trying to portray? A singing duo in Aristide Bruant’s social-realist mode? A stage drama? Is it a moment of socioeconomic conflict or comity? All we really know is this: a gentleman, likely returning from the Opera, proffers a cigar so that a raffish gentleman with sunken cheeks can light his own cigarette, in the foggy gaslight of a Parisian night. Its ambiguity alone defines it as a superb work of art.

Privat Livemont, Tropon Chocolade-Cacao. 1900.
Size: 13 1/2 x 22 7/8 in./34.3 x 58 cm
Condition: A-/Slight stains at edges. Framed.
Price: $3,900

Livemont never fails to impress me, and here he employs utmost Art Nouveau elegance to promote a quite pedestrian drink: hot chocolate. Amidst luscious floral furls, we see a goddess-like mother offering a sip of the tantalizing beverage to her angelic children. This drink was unique in regards to its ingredients: hot cocoa was blended with a water-soluble protein derived from fish and animal flesh. Perhaps it’s not the most delicious sounding concoction, but it sure was packed with protein! This image was briefly referenced in the 1900 issue of The Poster, where it was shown without text, and yet identified as an advertisement for Tropon Chocolade. Described as a “window-bill,” one can assume this was an in-store display and not ever a street poster—but it’s become a classic of Livemont lithography.

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