Sotheby’s to Auction World First Film Poster


Vanessa Obioha with agency reports

About 164 rare film posters including one that can lay claim to be the world’s first, one advertising the world-changing cinematography of the Lumière brothers, will be sold in Sotheby’s in London.

The poster promoting the first public screenings of film will provide a rare glimpse of late 19th-century Paris life. Critics lauded the idea, describing the step as a momentous one in cinema history as it traces the significant cultural developments of the 20th century. According to the Guardian UK, the historic 20-minute screening was in the Salon Indien, in the basement of the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines. A white canvas was hung at one end of the room and a selection of Lumière short films was screened showing scenes that included workers leaving the Lumière factory, an infant “fishing” for goldfish in a glass bowl and a man doing a forward roll over a blanket held by four of his mates.

There was also a short film called L’Arroseur Arossé(Tables Turned on the Gardener), which is regarded as the first film comedy if not the world’s first fiction film. It shows a boy stepping on the hose of a gardener and then, hilariously, taking his foot off when the gardener is peering confusedly at the end of the hose. It takes a darker turn as the gardener chases the boy and administers a spanking.

The audience were said to have greeted the films with a mixture of shock and suspicion. Victor Perrot, who witnessed the event, wrote that one lady shrieked in terror.

Later there was talk of magic and the films being the work of a conjuror. One man complained that it was unfair to make a mockery of the public.

Paris’s newspapers soon caught up with the event, featuring it within two days, more than 2,000 people paid one franc each to see the moving images. Within a few months, Lumière cinemas had opened in major international cities.

Two styles of posters advertising the screenings were produced, including the one for sale at Sotheby’s showing a crowd of people waiting to enter the Salon Indien. It was designed by the artist Henri Brispot and is being sold in an online auction opening on 28 August with an estimate of £40,000-60,000.