Huge Rare Original 19th Century Alphonse Mucha Lithograph Theater Poster

19th Century Theater Poster by Acclaimed Artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) / Two Piece Large Engraved Lithograph / Of Sarah Bernhardt Anno Domini MDCCCXCVI Theatre De La Renaissance | Dimensions: 81″ x 30″

Additional information
  • Magnificent 19th Century Theater Poster by Acclaimed Artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) | Two Piece Large Engraved Lithograph in Color | Entitled Sarah Bernhardt Anno Domini MDCCCXCVI Theatre De La Renaissance | It is an original Art nouveau poster advertising a performance of the play Lorenzaccio by Alfred de Musset starring Sarah Bernhardt, at the Theatre de la Renaissance | Housed in an Antique Custom Frame and covered in glass | Dimensions: 81″ x 30″ | Two piece lithograph backed on lined paper | Lorenzaccio piece en v actes et un epilogue D’ Alfred De Musset. Adaptation De M. Armand D’artois marked in plate: Sarah Bernhardt Anno Domini MDCCCXCVI theatre De La Renaissance.

    About the Play:

    Sarah Bernhardt played the male character of Lorenzo de’ Medici in Alfred de Musset’s Romantic tragedy of 1834. Set in 16th-century Florence, the plot tells of how Lorenzo de’ Medici kills Florence’s tyrant, Alessandro de’ Medici, depicted by Mucha as a snaring dragon menacing the coat of arms of the city of Florence in the upper part of the poster. Bernhardt, portrayed face on, contemplates the murder, symbolised by a dagger piercing the tyrannous dragon at the foot of the poster. The background is reminiscent of Florentine velvet.

    About the Artist:

    Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (currently a region of the Czech Republic). In 1871, Mucha became a chorister at the Saint-Peter’s Cathedral in Brno, where he received his secondary school education. It is there that he had his first revelation, in front of the richness of Baroque art. During the four years of studying there, he formed a friendship with Leoš Janáček who would become the greatest Czech composer of his generation. Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer’s business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha’s formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

    Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention.
    Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha. Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for “new art”). Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.

    Mucha’s style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, “I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.”  He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art.  He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.

    The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha’s works and his Slavic nationalism being denounced in the press as ‘reactionary’. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on 14 July 1939, due to lung infection, and was interred there in the Vyšehrad cemetery.

    About the Poster Art (From the Mucha Foundation):

    The Parisian actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was the single most influential figure in Mucha’s life as an artist. It was his first poster for her, Gismonda, that made him famous and he grew both as a man and an artist through his professional collaboration and friendship with the greatest stage personality of the era.

    Mucha met Sarah Bernhardt for the first time in late 1894. Legend says that on St. Stephen’s Day (26th December) Mucha, then a humble illustrator, was doing a favour for a friend, correcting proofs at Lemercier’s printing workshop, when the actress called the printer with an immediate demand for a new poster for her production of Gismonda. All the regular Lemercier artists were on holiday, so Mucha was turned to in desperation. Despite his lack of experience in designing posters, Mucha grabbed this opportunity and, to his own amazement, ‘La divine Sarah’ loved his work.

    Mucha’s Gismonda posters were up all over Paris on the morning of 1st January 1895 and they were to revolutionise poster design. The long narrow shape, the subtle pastel colours and the stillness of the near life-size figure introduced a note of dignity and sobriety, which were quite startling in their novelty. The posters immediately became objects of desire to collectors, many of whom used clandestine methods to obtain them, either bribing bill stickers or simply going out at night and cutting them down from the hoardings.

    Delighted with the success of Gismonda, Sarah Bernhardt immediately offered Mucha a contract to produce stage and costume designs as well as posters. Under this contract, Mucha produced six more posters for her productions: La Dame aux Camélias (1896), Lorenzaccio (1896), La Samaritaine (1897), Médée (1898), La Tosca (1898) and Hamlet (1899). Mucha applied to these posters the same design principle as that he had developed for Gismonda – the use of an elongated format with a single, full-standing figure of the actress placed in a raised shallow alcove like a saint.

    The collaboration between Mucha and Sarah Bernhardt was mutually beneficial. Mucha’s posters immortalised the ‘divine’ image of the actress, consolidating her iconic status. For her part, Bernhardt was so enamoured with Mucha’s work that after 1896 she made use of his designs for all posters advertising her American tours. This promoted Mucha’s work and helped him secure a foothold to explore a new career in the United States after 1904.

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    Artist / Maker

    Alphonse Mucha


    19th Century








    Framed, Glass Covering






    Drawings, Poster Art, Prints