Theatrophone | Maitre de L’Affiche: Plate #33
This artwork is from Les Maitres de L’Affiche series; miniature versions of outstanding stone lithograph artworks of the most important advertising posters by the finest artists.
One of the most popular of Cheret’s in the Maitre series, owing mainly to the 1896 use of a “telephone” style device.
The theatrophone was a distant ancestor of the jukebox. An early telephonic device, it was originally used to “broadcast” music from the Paris Opera. Anyone who inserted a coin could listen to the music through earphones. Although the beautiful subject is a picture-perfect Chérette, she is uncharacteristically wearing black gloves, which Cheret probably provided so that he could more precisely render the use of the actual machine. The gentleman in the background is suggestively waiting, either for the woman — or to use the phone! (Swann)
“This was the earliest example of live transmission for a fee, a subscriber could listen to an opera or a recital that was being picked up by a telephone hookup. The young woman doing the listening is one of Cheret’s most charming models.”(Rennert, PAI-XXVII, 353)
“The achievement of Cheret was to create a world of explosive happiness, and to paste it on the walls of Paris. As a painter he will be remembered for what Huysmans calls his ‘spirit of nervous gaiety’, as a lithographer for his superb technique, and as a poster artist for being the ancestor of all modern advertising.” (Abdy p.36)
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