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Cycles Perfecta (1902) is a work by the Czech painter Alphonse Mucha.
By this stage in his career, Mucha was in considerable demand for advertising work, and had become famous well beyond his homeland, as evidenced by this work promoting the British bicycle manufacturer Perfecta in France.
The female rider has the golden, stylised hair typical of many of his pictures of women.
The use of visual appeal in advertising developed rapidly in the last years of the 19th century, and by 1900 posters in the Art Nouveau style in which Mucha specialised had become a common sight in London, Paris and other major European cities.
Advertisements no longer simply informed buyers of the goods available, but attempted to entice or even seduce them into purchasing a company's products.
Cycles Perfecta captures Mucha at the height of his powers, confident in his abilities and willing to experiment.
The painting is not entirely realistic in its presentation – the cycle is shown at rest, yet the woman's hair is streaming in the wind as though she had been riding at speed.
This gives an impression that cycling could bring both exhilaration and elation, and adds a subtly alluring undertone with the woman's large expanses of exposed flesh.
This suited Mucha, since he was generally more concerned with depicting beauty in his paintings than with presenting realistic scenes. This tendency to exaggerate good qualities made him a good fit for advertising work, especially in the Paris of the Belle Époque around the turn of the 20th century.
Other cycle companies, such as Waverley, also signed Mucha up to create similar images.
Cycles Perfecta is a colour lithograph measuring 52 by 35 cm, a standard size for posters at that time. It was printed by the Parisian firm of F. Champenois and was distributed fairly widely around the French capital.