Le Theatrophone

Artist: Jules Cheret French (1836-1932)

Title: Le Theatrophone

Plate: PL. 33

Description: Condition A.
Original lithograph from "Les Maitres de L'Affiche" series. 
Printed by Imprimerie Chaix, Paris, 1896. 
Presented in 16 x 20 in. acid free, archival museum mat, with framing labels. Ready to frame. Shipped boxed flat via Fedex. 
Certificate of Authenticity.

Maitre Sheet Size: 11 3/8 in x 15 3/4 in 29 cm x 40 cm

Price: $375.00

Full size sold for $ 8625 US Poster Auctions International, N.Y. Nov 2002

Le théâtrophone. An illustration from Le Magasin pittoresque (1892)

“I can be visited in bed by the brook and the birds of [Beethoven’s] Pastoral Symphony,” wrote Marcel Proust because of the wonderful invention of the Théâtrophone. Clement Adler invented the prototype in 1881 (the first demonstrated use of binaural audio) to broadcast a Paris Opera performance to listeners at the Palais de l’Industrie. In 1890, however, the technology became commercially available—and Chéret’s poster was the definitive advertisement for it. In lightning-quick time, home subscriptions became available, while Théâtrophones were set up in hotels, restaurants, cafés, and vestibules throughout Paris. Fifty centimes bought you five minutes of live music straight from the Ópera Garnier. Today, 3D audio in headphones and VR is an innovation derived directly from the binaural audio innovation of the Théâtrophone, making this poster an important artifact in the history of the recording arts and sciences." (Rennert)


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 Cherette, 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)