Art Nouveau

Why Are Cigarettes So Sexy? A Story of Art Nouveau Posters

Magda Michalska 13 February 2022 min Read

Just to make it clear: smoking is bad. But… why do all those people look so sexy with cigarettes? Like Marlene Dietrich with her cigarette holder, or James Dean… I suspect that this whole cigarettes-looking-sexy business started with the early ads, which featured coquettish and beautiful women inviting one to buy cigarettes or rolling paper. Who could possibly resist them? Here you will find the collection of Art Nouveau posters with cigarettes – so classy!

Smoking Goddess no. 1

art nouveau posters
Alphonse Mucha, JOB, 1896. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

JOB was not, in fact, a cigarette brand. They produced thin rolling papers made of rice paper due to the fact that in the 19th century, most smokers rolled their own cigarettes. JB letters referred to the initials of the owner, Jean Bardou, while the “O” was, in reality, a diamond shape that separated the two letters in the first designs of the ads.

Smoking Goddess no. 2

1897c Poster for 'Job' cigarette papers lithograph 152 x 102 cm art nouveau posters
Alphonse Mucha, JOB, 1897, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.

When Jean Bardou died, his son took over the company and invested in developing the advertisement for the brand. In the 1890s, he invited Alphonse Mucha, a famous Czech Art Nouveau artist to design some of the posters.
This cigarette goddess was inspired by Michelangelo’s Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel. She became so popular that the poster was also produced in the form of a lithograph. It also gave birth to a series of other sexy posters.

A Non-Smoking Goddess for the Comparison

sibyl art nouveau posters
Michelangelo, The Sibyl, 1508-1512, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Vatican.

Reclining Smoking Goddess

Aleardo Villa, Los Cigarillos Paris, 1901 art nouveau posters
Aleardo Villa, Los Cigarrillos Paris, 1901, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.

The success of JOB inspired other brands to follow in their footsteps. They cooperated with Mucha but also employed other artists like an Italian Aleardo Villa.

Luxurious Smoking Goddess

art nouveau posters
Stephano, Saphir Cigarettes, 1908. Catawiki.

Machine-rolled cigarettes were a luxurious product in 1908 when this poster was made. Stephano depicted a very exotic-looking woman smoking a cigarette and a Hookah at the same time. Such a Flapper she must have been!

Smoking Couples

art nouveau posters
Paul Harvey, The Original Double II, 2008. Paul Harvey.

Sexy cigarette designs by Mucha and others are still in fashion. In 2008 JOB invited a Stuckist artist Paul Harvey to design new posters in Mucha-inspired style. Harvey depicted famous doubles, which referred to the product, the “Original Double”.

Ah, and by the way, smoking kills…

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