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    The Most Significant Collection of Art from the Golden Age of the Poster, in a Stunning Art Nouveau Binding

    Jules Cheret (editor). Les Maîtres de l'Affiche - Complete in Five Volumes Comprised of 256 Lithographs, Including the 16 Special Plates. [Paris]: Imprimerie Chaix, 1896-1900.

    First edition. Five folio volumes, bound. 240 color lithographed plates plus 16 bonus plates created exclusively for this series. Prefaces by Roger Marx.

    Bound in stunning art nouveau pictorial bindings designed by artist Paul Berthon in dark green cloth stamped in light green, cream, and gold. Beveled boards, blue-gray endpapers, top edges gilt. Tissue-guarded plates on wove paper, measuring approximately 15.5 x 11.375 inches (394 x 289 mm), each with blind-embossed printer's stamp in lower right corner. Prints are in generally excellent condition, with some toning around edges and occasional foxing (most of which occurs outside the image areas). Foxing is most prominent on the sixteen "special" plates. Colors are vivid; gilt, where present, is extraordinarily bright. The bindings are in beautiful condition, with minimal shelf wear; a couple of the volumes a little loose, the result of a few hinges cracked or starting. Overall, a spectacular set in fine condition.

    Les Maîtres de l'Affiche ("Masters of the Poster") was a subscription series conceived by the great French poster artist Jules Cheret, the "Father of the Poster" who revolutionized advertising art through his designs and his innovative color lithography techniques. His series reproduced the spectacularly colorful and lively advertising posters that had burst upon the European scene and delighted the public in the waning years of the nineteenth century. Cheret's series reproduced these extremely popular posters in a reduced, manageable version while still retaining the authentic vivid colors of the originals.

    The series includes contributions from 97 European and American artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha, Parrish, Grasset, Steinlen, the Beggarstaffs, Denis, Vollard, Vallotton, and Cheret. The plates were printed on high-quality paper using state-of-the-art printing techniques. The original very large posters, on the other hand, were mass produced and were intended as ephemeral advertisements and not as collectible art; they were generally printed on newsprint and had a very short lifespan. The plates from Les Maîtres de l'Affiche have stood the test of time and are almost always in better condition than the originals; in fact, many of the originals did not survive, and the smaller versions from this series are the only examples of the posters extant.

    Sold by subscription, the very popular series was issued four prints at a time in sixty monthly parts for five years, with sixteen "special" plates included throughout the series. The plates were originally issued as loose sheets, but subscribers who wished to have their plates bound were offered the opportunity to have hardcover editions bound in a specially-designed binding by Paul Berton. It is rare to come across Les Maîtres de l'Affiche containing the sixteen bonus plates, but it is rarer still, to come across an intact collection of all 256 plates. Individual plates from this collection are much sought-after, with a few of the most desirable ones selling in the $5,000-$10,000 range. Consequently, a complete set that has not been broken in order to sell the plates separately is rarely encountered.

    An exquisite, masterfully compiled and presented collection of the very best examples of art from La Belle Époque.

    More Information:

    A more detailed description of this lot:

    All volumes: Pale blue-green endpapers toned/faded along edges. Occasional creased tissue guard. Edges of most plates lightly toned. Several of the plates with minor foxing outside image area (not always specifically noted below). Most of the sixteen "special plates" have moderate to heavy foxing (the first two special plates, by Cheret, have significant water stains and foxing - no other plates have water staining); special plates are not included in this extended condition report.

    Vol. I: Very minor wear to corners and spine ends. Very minor "starting" to front hinge. Binding a little loose. Heavy foxing to outer blank pages, less heavy foxing to half-title.

    Plates: Plate 2 (Toulouse-Lautrec) has two spots inside image area.

    Vol. II: Very minor wear to corners. Cloth at foot of spine has been snagged with a half-inch tear.

    Plates: Plate 59 (Donnay) has a series of creases along very bottom edge which appear to have been caused in printing/trimming. Plate 95 (Steinlen) has foxing at bottom margin which intrudes over title and slightly into margin of image area. Plate 96 (Ellis) has foxing to top and bottom margins, with one small spot intruding into image area's top margin.

    Vol. III: Very minor wear to corners and spine ends. Tiny split to cloth at base of spine. Occasional foxing to preliminaries, title page, preface, table of contents. 3 x 1/2-inch strip of masking tape to rear free endpaper. Rear free endpaper is rippled.

    Plates: Plate 122 (Toulouse-Lautrec) has foxing to left and bottom margin, outside of image area. Plate 133 (Cheret) has minor foxing to right and bottom margins. Plate 142 (Willette) has minor foxing to top and bottom margins. Plate 143 (Robbe) has minor foxing to bottom margin. Plate 144 (Mucha) has some foxing at bottom of image area; verso is quite toned.

    Vol. IV: Very minor wear to corners and head of spine. Base of spine has small area of wear. There is a 2.5-inch crack to rear hinge, resulting in a somewhat loose binding. Small piece of masking tape to each free endpaper. There is a 3.5-inch tear in the middle of the rear free endpaper. Foxing to half-title page.

    Plates: Plate 147 (Meunier) has minor foxing to left and bottom margins, intruding into left margin of image. Plate 169 (Cheret) has foxing to right and bottom margins. Plate 181 (Cheret) has foxing to bottom edge. Plate 183 (Fay) has foxing to bottom of page (left margin of landscaped image). Plate 188 (Koller) has small indentation to bottom edge.

    Vol. V: Very minor wear to corners. Very edge of spine ends rubbed through. Both hinges cracked; binding loose. 2.25-inch strip of masking tape to front free endpaper.

    Plates: Plates 193, 194, and 195 (Cheret, Willette, and Roedel) are foxed. Plate 196 (Meunier) has a shallow wrinkle in the lower left corner, intruding slightly into the image area. Plate 205 (Cheret) has foxing to right and bottom margins. Plate 217 (Cheret) has foxing (dampstaining?) to right edge. Plate 229 (Cheret) has foxing to right and bottom margins. Plate 230 (Rochegrosse) has two spots to bottom margin. Plate 232 (Brothers Beggarstaff) has a spot to bottom margin.

    An incredible collection of beautifully vivid lithographs, bound in stunning green and cream Art Nouveau bindings. A fine set.


    We strongly suggest in-person inspection of this lot if you have any major concerns. Viewing of this lot may be scheduled at our Dallas headquarters.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 11
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 8,521

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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