Monday, September 21, 2015

Lucy Gérard: Stage Actress of La Belle Époque France

This week's featured cards feature Lucy Gerard (sometimes spelled Lucie Gérard). Born Marie-Louise Philiberte Lucy Gérard in Lyon, France, 1872, Lucy Gérard was a popular stage actress of Belle Époque France. Unfortunately, we know very little about her, except that in the first decade of the 20th century in France she was a great beauty, and her stage performances were very popular.

In the following image, she is framed by an Art Nouveau illustration designed to leave room for the sender's message. Post cards of this type fall under the category of what French collectors call a précurseur, a card made before the back sides were divided to allow for written communication. Prior to 1904, when the backs of these cards were undivided as this one was, only the recipient's address was allowed on the back side, and often short letters were written on the image side instead. Discovering this, publishers produced picture postcards with small images, often highly decorative, and allowing lots of space for written communication.

Lucy Gérard, Stage Actress, by Reutlinger, in Art Nouveau Border, circa 1900 (unposted)

One of her most famous roles was that of Fanny Essler, or Elssler, an Austrian Ballerina who in the play "l'Aiglon," by Edmond Rostand, was the love interest of Napoleon II. The role of Napoleon II, by the way, was played by the great Sarah Bernhardt. In fact, Rostand wrote the part specifically for her. The play was a huge success, and became one of Sarah Bernhardt's favorites. Playing the romantic lead opposite Bernhardt must have been quite a coup, and this postcard image, the one we find most often of Mlle. Gérard, is of her costumed for that role.

Lucy Gérard, by Reutlinger, as Fanny Elssler in Rostand's "l'Aigon," circa 1900 (unposted)
The hand-coloring on the following portrait is particularly lovely. Note that the date 9/9 1906 is written in the bottom left corner of both the face and the reverse, and the card was posted in 1906. We have not attempted a translation of the message, but we do see the word souvenir, which is the French word for memory, so we believe it's quite possible that this card was sent as a remembrance, by Clarion to Mlle. Ninon Peyran at the Chateau St. Charles, of a special evening at the theater during which Gerard performed.

Lucy Gérard. French Actress, circa 1906 by Leopold Reutlinger

The following image is a very nice example of the sort of photo-montage Leopold Reutlinger is so well known for. Here we have famed stage actress Lucy Gérard superimposed onto an image of the Bordeaux Amphitheater. Also known as the Palais Gallien, it is surrounded by the cobbled streets of what was once known as Burdigala. Burdigala once may have been the capital of the ancient Roman province Gallia Aquitaina during the reign of the emperor Augustus. The amphitheater once held up to 15,000 spectators.

Lucy Gérard, Belle Epoque Actress, Bordeaux Amphitheater, circa 1900 (unposted)


Mlle. Gérard passed away in 1941. We feel a little sad when we think about it, how she was born into a world of horses and carriages, experienced France in one of its most glorious periods, Paris, in one of its most glamorous and hopeful, and then to have died at a time when her world had so dramatically changed, into one of machines and motorcars, with her country occupied by Hitler's forces, no end in sight, and not living long enough to experience the liberation...okay, snap out of it Red :)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015