Poster for 'La Dame aux Camélias' (1896)

Sarah Bernhardt considered La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas to be the key drama in her repertoire. Bernhardt played the title role, the courtesan Camille who is dying of consumption and releases her lover from his promise to marry her.

Mucha captures the tradgedy of the tale with shocking impact. The grief-stricken heroine leans wearily against a balustrade and is flanked by a background of silver stars. In her hair is a white camelia. Another camelia, this time symbolising death, is held up by a hand at the bottom of the poster. This smooth-stemmed plant contrasts with the thorny roses piercing the hearts at the top of the design, evoking the play's principal theme - love's ultimate sacrifice.

This poster became one of Bernhardt's favourites, and she used this design for her American tour in 1905-1906 and 1910-1911.