Section One

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Lillian Russell
Strobridge Lithography Company, c. 1885

The enduring popularity of Lillian Russell as the prima donna of the American light opera stage had as much to do with her renowned beauty and flair for publicity as her voice and stage presence. The photographic face in this poster, suggesting the sweet and youthful heroines of Russell’s many comic operas, is typical of late nineteenth-century commercial advertising. The elaborate ornamentation of the frame, however, and the subtle color stippling of the background show the influence of the French-inspired artistic poster movement on commercial printing firms in America.

The unidentified artist from the Strobridge Lithography Company posed Russell’s face against a marbleized wallpaper design within an elaborate frame inspired by contemporary stained glass and ornamented with bamboo fronds. The image is further embellished with an elegant monogram of initials, lilies, and a lyre, whose spiraling curls are echoed in the lettering of the name.