$350k Toulouse-Lautrec at the year's best poster sale

Poster Auctions International is holding a sale this Sunday, November 8, which could be the event of the year if you are a keen vintage posters collector.

The auction includes theatre, Soviet propaganda and aviation poster art.

A prized lot among them is a 1909 poster welcoming triumphant aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers, to Dayton Ohio. It is valued at $8,000-10,000.

Wright brothers
A Wright Brothers poster, welcoming the "Greatest Aviators" to Ohio, US

Meanwhile, even more coveted are 12 works by the lengendary painter and printmaker Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Most of these carry estimates of $20,000-50,000, but a few go higher still.

His poster for Ault & Wiborg Co. is expected to sell for up to $70,000. The image, more familiar than the name, depicts actress Emilienne d'Alencon with Toulouse-Lautrec's cousin, Dr Gabriel Tapie de Celeyran.

It was Toulouse-Lautrec's smallest poster, the only one printed using zinc plates, and the only one printed in America. This framed example is in as fine a condition as any vintage poster you are likely to see.

Toulouse-Lautrec's most famous work, Moulin Rouge/La Goulue, was also his first poster and lithograph. It has since appeared everywhere from pop art references to tea towels.

The example at Poster Auctions International has a few minor tears, and is estimated at $120,000-150,000.

Moulin Rouge Toulouse Lautrec
Toulouse-Lautrec's famous Moulin Rouge poster

One of the most remarkable aspects of Moulin Rouge is his method for depicting of the can-can's dazzling flash of petticoats: by leaving part of the page blank and working around it.

The work was a sharp change from the then-ubiquitous Jules Chéret, aka 'the father of the modern poster', who himself once said "Lautrec is a master". Thirty Chéret posters will appear in this incredible sale.

Curiously, the top lot is not actually a poster, but a ceramic tile based on a rejected poster design.

It depicts famous performer Yvette Guilbert, with whom Toulouse-Lautrec had a complex relationship. She was often infuriated by his frequent sketches of her, which were seldom flattering.

She asked him to provide her with a ceramic tile for use as a tea-table. Again the result was unflattering, and when asked to sign it, she also wrote, in French, "But little monster, you have made me horrible!"

Yvette Guilbert Toulouse-Lautrec
Toulouse-Lautrec's depiction of Yvette Guilbert

Undeterred, Toulouse-Lautrec went ahead with the tile anyway, complete with the signature and comment. Ten were made, none quite the same. This framed example is in excellent condition and estimated at $300,000-350,000.

Aside from Toulouse-Lautrec, the biggest draw is probably the works of Alphonse Mucha, 30 in total, ranging from $20,000-30,000.

The highest valued of these, at up to $50,000, is actually an oil painting rather than a poster: Girl from Montenegro. The subject has one breast exposed and gazes challengingly straight out of the picture.

The works in this incredible sale are already available for viewing.

It takes place at International Poster Center, 601 West 26th Street, Suite 1370, New York, NY 10001 on Sunday. Online bidding is also offered.

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