About this artwork

This work is one of the last posters that Lautrec made before a significant decline in his physical and mental health.

Inspired by an earlier photograph, it shows the dancer Jane Avril in an extravagant hat and long dress decorated with a snake motif. Born Jeanne Beaudon, she was renowned for her ‘jerky movements and sudden contortions’, a common symptom of the movement disorder Sydenham's chorea she was diagnosed with as a child. This trait led to her nickname La Mélinite, a type of explosive material.

The design is considered to be one of Lautrec’s most compelling works; yet examples of it are particularly rare as it was rejected by Avril and her manager, meaning it was never publicly used.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec