Thursday, January 29, 2009

Les Drames de Toulouse

When our show "Toulouse-Lautrec: 100 Prints & Posters" closed a few weeks ago, I was pretty floored that this little gem hadn't been swiped up by someone fabulous.  

Okay, okay, I know--it's not the most visually appealing thing in the world, nor it is exactly on par with what most poster-people want hanging above their dining room table; however, this poster is packed with more niftiness than a 430-piece orchestra of Elvis impersonators playing "Eleanor Rigby." 

First, this is literally the only surviving complete copy of this image IN THE WORLD. That's right, for a fraction of the cost of a 3-sheet Moulin Rouge (of which there are far more than one copy), you can have yourself a one-of-a-kind work by the same artist. Ponder those bragging rights. Just ponder them. 

Second, this poster's got a story--a dirty little history, if you will. Back in the Lautrec days of absinthe and can-can girls, a Mr. Arthur Huc, editor of a little magazine called La Dépêche de Toulouse, wanted a big-name artist to help advertise a new serial-novel appearing in the publication. However, rather than pay for said artist to create the entire advertising poster, he had the brilliant idea of only commissioning Lautrec to produce the image. Later, he pasted Lautrec's hanged man onto the much larger sheet that you see here, the text provided by another, much cheaper, artist. 

Finally, the story that this poster is advertising is straight-up ballah, my friends: Set in the 18th century, it's based on the real-life Calas affair (totally worth a wikipedia if you're not already familiar with it). In it, Papa Calas, a Protestant, is on trial for the murder of his son, Calas Jr. He claims innocents; however, as the court (and most of France) was against Protestant at the time, somehow it's seen as a religious murder, Papa Calas having done his son in for wanting to convert to Catholicism. In fact, Papa was just attempting to cover up his son's suicide, not wanting the church to revoke his son's entry into heaven. Meanwhile, Voltaire (yes, the actual Voltaire) starts a campaign to free Papa Calas once he's been found guilty; however, all is too late. On March 10, 1762, Papa Calas died, tortured to death on the wheel, St. Catharine-style. His sentence was revoked 3 years later.  

Now, who doesn't want that slice of history on their livingroom wall?!

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