Following on radically from his lithography work, deployed in the form of posters in the street, Toulouse-Lautrec accepted a commission to do two monumental decorative panels for La Goulue, a well-known cabaret dancer who was wishing to perform in a booth set up at the Foire du Trone.
Out of loyalty to this fading star of the Moulin Rouge, he produced a work, which stood exposed to the elements at the entrance to her booth, and was only saved from a very early demise when it was bought up by the collector Viau in 1900.
Dance at the Moulin-Rouge, La Goulue and Valentin le Désossé (left panel) commemorates the devilish acrobatic dances that brought fame to the dancer and her partner in the past. To the rear are the top representatives of this nocturnal life, including Jane Avril in the feathered hat.
The Moorish Dance (right panel) recalls the belly dance show performed by La Goulue inside her booth, loosely inspired by eastern choreographies. The audience is placed in bold perspective in the foreground, and was composed of friends of Toulouse-Lautrec such as Oscar Wilde, seen from behind, and the well-known critic and backer Felix Feneon, in the bottom right-hand corner. The artist has also featured himself amid this colorful audience.