Original Artwork and Proofs

Preliminary sketches (or maquettes) in coloured inks, watercolour or oil crayon form a fascinating adjunct to the history of the poster, allowing us to see the artist’s first thoughts, and the gradual development of the final design. Generally maquettes like this would be commissioned by an advertising agency and then presented to the client for final approval, before the design was transferred to the polished limestone blocks for printing. A recent discovery – two preliminary sketches (or maquettes) in ink, pastel and watercolour for one of the most famous of all absinthe posters, Absinthe Blanqui’s smiling redhead, printed sometime between 1898 and 1901. The printer was L. Revon et Cie, situated in Paris at 93 Rue Oberkampf. The artist’s signature “Nover” is a mystery – no designer by that name is recorded. Since however the word is a palindrome of Revon, the assumption must be that the artist was Revon himself, or alternatively an anonymous employee of the firm. The same artist was responsible for the well-known Absinthe Vichet poster, also printed by Revon et Cie.

The often reproduced Absinthe Blanqui poster – a quintessential art-nouveau image, heavily influenced by the then fashionable vogue for orientalism. The original is rare, with only three surviving copies recorded.Format: 49 x 32cm

This maquette has the girl in profile, gazing upwards at the glass of absinthe. She is facing left rather than right as in the poster, but her green dress, the sinuous green ribbons surrounding her and the serpent clasp around her arm are all echoed in the final version. The position of the girl’s head and the design of her hair in this sketch are reminiscent of Privat-Livemont’s 1896 poster for Absinthe Robette, and it is possible that this was modified in the final version specifically so that the Blanqui poster did not too closely resemble Privat-Livemont’s design. Format: 49 x 32cm.

This famous 1894 design for Absinthe Parisienne by P. Gélis-Didot and Louis Malteste has a coyly erotic theme, emphasized by the innuendo of the tag line “Bois donc, tu verras après…” (Drink – then you’ll see…) The man, based on Molière’s comic doctor Diafoirus, is chasing a not entirely reluctant redhead with a plunging neckline around a giant and all too obviously phallic absinthe bottle. At right: An original oil-crayon and watercolour maquette. The colours are broadly similar to the final printed version. Above right A printed proof in black and white. Format: 120 x 82cm.