La Goulue (The Glutton), born Louise Weber, was an ambitious country laundress who became famous dancing the cancan. Nicknamed for her insatiable appetite for both life and food, she aggressively courted fame, dancing in transparent muslin knickers, posing topless in publicity photos, and cultivating a reputation for bawdiness. Her costume consisted of a low-cut gown, a much-copied hairstyle, and a black ribbon choker. Her look was so distinctive that in Lautrec’s most famous images of her, he did not even need to show her from the front. These images reveal his debt to Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts, in which subjects are often identified by gestures, hairstyles, or accessories rather than a traditional likeness.
Gallery label from The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, July 26, 2014–March 22, 2015.