Friday, September 28, 2012

(Video Friday) Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Painting

We were delighted to discover this wonderful silent movie footage of Renoir, as he paints. It appears that Renoir had a assistant who, similarly to a surgical assistant today, handed him his tools and cared for many of his needs while he painted. In this short clip, Renoir also chats with a man whose identity we do not know, but who might have been a client, patron, or friend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to Summerisle, circa 1920

For those of you who don't avidly watch every single Neo-Pagan horror movie ever exported from the UK since the 1940s, Summerisle is the fictional setting for the 1973 film, "The Wicker Man," which Christopher Lee (as he nearly always does), makes thoroughly worth seeing, in spite of almost everything else! :)

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Angelic Schoolgirls at Summerisle School for Girls
Anyway, leaving all that silliness aside, what a charming image! The lovely sepia tones, and less than perfectly clear resolution, only add to its hauntingly atmospheric allure. So sweet!

Right up until the moment one of those beautifully costumed young ladies, or that somewhat severe looking, while still rather sexy (in a kind of "dominant" way), boarding school headmistress, drops some hallucinogenic herbal tincture into your cup of Earl Grey tea, and they offer you up as a burnt sacrifice to ensure a bountiful harvest!!! Oh yeah! Like that's not going to happen!!!

***Please note*** severe looking, but still rather sexy, headmistress may not be visible in photograph, but is probably, even now, peering at you from behind a lace curtain in an upper story window.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Video Friday: The Year was 1912

This silent video footage from 1912 has been set to a recently-recorded musical score based on popular songs of that year. Panels displaying the lyrics of the music being played are interspersed with the video clips, and it's fun to note just how racy some of those lyrics are:
Turn off your light, Mister Moon Man,
Go and hide your light behind a cloud,
Can't you see that couples want to spoon, man,
Two is company and three's a crowd....
It's not entirely clear whether all of the clips are from the same location, but the double decker buses and brief glimpses of signage suggest that at least some of the clips were shot in England. At 3:33 white flags with a cross can be seen fluttering from windows in the background of the scene; while these might be Finland's national flag (white with a blue cross), they might also be displaying a red St. George's Cross on a white field, which although used by several nations, and even a number of municipalities, seems suggestive of England, once more, possibly in connection with a celebration of Saint George's Day.

There's a wonderful moment at 4:02 in which we see a man and woman selling flowers on a crowded street. The man sits on a curb, a bucket of flowers between his feet, and the woman appears to be braiding some of flowers.

While much of the footage is street scenes, there are also some delightful clips of women showing off their fashionable finery. Some of them seem to be on stage, either in performances or in fashion shows, but others are in more casual settings and some, especially the younger women, seem to be simply showing off for their friends. There are even a few women who are clearly acting as hat models, one of whom looks distinctly nervous, which utterly charmed us.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pierrot's Origins Can Be Found in the Commedia dell'Arte

Pierrot's origins can be found in the Commedia dell'Arte, a 16th century theatrical movement of traveling players who performed (often with favorite "stock" characters) on temporary open air stages. The tragic opera Pagliacci (trans. players or clowns), by Ruggero Leoncavallo, premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan on May 21, 1892. It is a tale of travelling players and features a romantic triangle with a Pierrot-like clown, who betrayed by his wife and a Harlequin-like fellow performer resorts to murder.

Enrico Caruso, 1873-1921, in "Pagliacci,"c. 1908.
Copyright by A. Dupont, N.Y. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 
For a real treat, check out this performance of what is probably the most well known aria in Pagliacci, "Vesti la giubba," sung by Luciano Pavarotti, one of the great tenors of our time.

It was probably in the late 17th century that an Italian troupe known as Comedie-Italienne, while performing in Paris, first introduced Pierrot to the French public.

Pierrot is often depicted as the sad clown, the ever trusting innocent, the sweet-natured soul, whose lover Colombine (sometimes called Colombinette or Colombina) betrays him with the wily Harlequin. But, with the popularity of pantomime, he often stood alone on the stage trying oh, so very hard to express his experience of life, without the words to do so.

SOLD Pierrot and Colombinette asleep on a crescent moon
SOLD  Pierrot wooing Colombine
Paul Cézanne: Pierrot and Harlequin (1888, Oil on canvas)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
SOLD Pierrot, La Colère

By the late 1880s, with the dawning of la Belle Époque, Pierrot was to meet a new friend, Pierrette, who would vie with Colombine for his affections.

SOLD Lily Damita, in a Pierrette-like costume
Pierrot's image was a favorite of Jules Chéret, possibly the most successful commercial artist of the period. In the Fine Arts, the Impressionists, and Post-Impressionists were inspired by Pierrot.

Jules Chéret, 3rd panel of la Pantomime
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pablo Picasso, Arlequin a cheval, 1905,
[Fair Use] via WikiPaintings
It is not at all unusual to find wonderful photos and RPPCs (Real Photo Post Cards) of couples at Carnival, or fêtes, dressed as Pierrot and his ensemble. Sometimes, even whole families get into the act.

SOLD Pierrot plays the mandolin for his Colombine
SOLD Pierrot and family at a fête
Publishers of French postcards made successful use of Pierrot to create romantic, silly, and sometimes mysterious images to please the picture postcard buying public.

SOLD "Croissants de Lune"
We are so very fond of Pierrot, here at Red Poulaine, that he shares a section in our shop with another favorite of ours, Mignon. But, fair warning, when you find him in stock, if you are a collector, better grab him quickly, because he is a very popular character and, like the traveling players from whom he is descended, seldom stays long in one place.

SOLD  Pierrot hugging Colombine

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mignon was an opéra comique written by Ambroise Thomas and first performed in Paris, in 1866. The opera was hugely popular, and its main character, a tragic Gypsy girl, set the public's imagination on fire.

SOLD Mignon, looking dreamy
With the advent of the picture postcard, images of Mignon flooded the European and UK markets. You will find Mignon with horses, toddler Mignon, infant Mignon, and one of my favorites, the Esquimaux Cat Mignon. Often, whole sets of several cards depicting scenes from the story were published.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Mignon, one of a set of two from Berlin

Barefoot Mignon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Saharet, the India Rubber Lady

SOLD Saharet
The Australian dancer Saharet was born Clarissa (or Clarise) Rose Campbell in either Melbourne or Ballarat, in 1879.[1, 2] A talented and limber dancer known for her ability to do high kicks, "a reviewer described Saharet as an India rubber lady in her rendition of a dislocation dance."[1]

Beautiful and vivacious, she led a full and interesting life. We hope to share a more complete biographical post with our readers at some time in the future. Today, we are sharing this video of a 1905 silent film clip, showing Saharet dancing the Bolero.[3]

Note A shorter video of the same film clip, but with an added musical sound track, is available at

An interesting side note to the silent film clip shown in these videos is that it was directed by the Frenchwoman Alice Guy (married name Blanché), who was, according to IMDB, the first woman to become a film director.[4, 5]

[1] Saharet. (2012, August 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from
[2] Saharet. n.d. In HAT-History of Australian Theatre. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from
[3] Change Before Going Productions. (2012, April 28). Saharet performs the bolero (1905) - Alice Guy Blanche - Madame Saharet boléro. In YouTube. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from
[4] Saharet, boléro. n.d. In IMDB. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from
[5] Alice Guy. n.d. In IMDB. Retrieved September 13, 2012, from

Hot Pink Hand-Tinted Vintage Photograph of a Romantic Couple on a Beach

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Miss Ivy Lillian Close circa 1910s


Gorgeous soulful image of Miss Ivy Lillian Close. She was first Miss Britain of 1908, then a stage actress, then a silent film star in those very early days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monsieur G. Piprot, Postcard Producer and Photographer of the Misses Amy and Remple

If you are a vintage photograph and postcard enthusiast, who shares our interest in Parisian music hall performers and their postcard images, you may have noticed a star in the bottom corner of some of your favorite postcards. This is the production mark of Monsieur G. Piprot, who operated a postcard production company out of number 2 Rue de l'Amsterdam in Paris. He made use of a process called emaillographie, which like the process oranotypie (used by the prodigious Mr. Steglitz of Germany), was intended to add depth and clarity to the postcard print. The great Walery, Nadar, and many other famous Parisian photographers of the time were often published by M. Piprot under his star label. Not so common, were images actually photographed by G. Piprot, but we are lucky enough to have two such images, a pair of lovely stage performers, Miss Amy, and Miss Remple.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASEMiss Amy, photograph by G. Pirot
Miss Remple, photograph by G. Pirot
These two young women are dressed in charmingly matched off-the-shoulder costumes and each sports a long, gorgeously thick braid. The cards have been hand-tinted, and the close observer will note that the colored panels on Miss Amy's dress correspond to the uncolored panels on Miss Remple's, and vice versa, so that each image presents a clever counterpart of the other.

One fun fact about these two cards is that they were posted by the same individual, Mateo, to two different women living in the same household. Mateo inscribed each card in a lovely hand, using violet ink.

Reverse of Miss Amy's postcard
Reverse of Miss Remple's postcard
We can't help but speculate whether Mateo, unable to make up his mind, was courting two sisters, and to wonder what reaction the women had on receiving the cards.

Two charming Oranotypes, (a process used in postcard production to maintain the depth and clarity of the photographic image), of a loving mother and her child. So sweet! The flowers in the hair are so expressive of the period. published by A.G. Steglitz in 1904. 

Mother and Daughter Oranotype, Image 1
Mother and Daughter Oranotype, Image 2
Posted in Brussels, Belgium in 1906 by someone with a fine and carefully practiced hand. 

Reverse of  Mother and Daughter Oranotype, Image 1
Reverse of Mother and Daughter Oranotype, Image 2
We look forward to listing these in our shop.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

La Belle Otero, the Last of "Les Grandes Trois"

Santiago de Compostela
On November 4th, 1868, in the town of Valga, Galicia, not far north of Spain's border with Portugal, Agustina Otero Iglesias was born into poverty, but also into the very midst of the Rexurdimento, the Galician cultural revolution, so that despite her poverty, she must often have heard the folksongs in her native Galician tongue being reborn all around her. Because of her family’s straightened circumstances, it was not possible for the child to remain with them. As was true for many small children born into poor families in those days, young Agustina left her home behind at a very early age, having been placed in service as a household maid in Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of Galicia.

It was while in Santiago de Compostela that, tragically, ten year old Agustina was brutally raped, a hideous act that would leave her physically incapable of conceiving a child.

By the early 1880's, Agustina, now fourteen, was already following the music in her heart. In the company of a young man we know only as Paco, she traveled to Lisbon, where, with Paco as her dancing partner, she began her career as a dancer and chanteuse. Youth and inexperience stood in her way, but her beauty, vivacity, and natural ability worked in her favor.

SOLD La Belle Otero, wearing a tambourine as a hat
Popular history suggests that shortly after establishing herself in Lisbon, and while still only fourteen years old, the young dancer made her first conquest as a courtesan, first enchanting, and then marrying a Count Guglielmo, who whisked her away from poverty and, presumably, away from Paco as well. With the new social standing gained by this marriage, Agustina was said to have met with greater opportunities for advancement. That is certainly one version of her story, though if it is true, how she ended up still singing in cafes at 18 and 19 is difficult to explain. We do know that she eventually met a "friend" with enough money to take her to Marseilles and, while there, to support her ambitions, and that from Marseilles she made her way to Paris.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE La Belle Otero, photo by Reutlinger of Paris
While still in her teens, Agustina had changed her name to Caroline Otero and reinvented her history as well, claiming to be the product of a love match between a dashing nobleman and a dark-eyed Gypsy princess. So it was that upon her arrival in Paris, she was no longer Agustina, the poor peasant girl from a small town in Galicia, but  "La Belle Otero," the seductive Andalusian Gypsy dancer.

Once in Paris, and surrounding herself with the mystique of her new image,  it wasn't long before she found work as a dancer in the Folies Bergère. Before long, she was the talk of that city of lights, a top billing attraction, and within a few short years, one of the most famous women in France.

The great Folies Bergère music hall

Folies Bergère poster advertising La Belle Otero

Casino de Paris poster
advertising Liane de Pougy
Folies Bergère poster
advertising Emilienne d'Alençon
La Belle Otero was now a hugely popular performer, and also one of "Les Grandes Horizontales," an affectionate term that the people of France used for their great courtesans. She was, in fact, one of "Les Grandes Trois," or, "the three great ones." She, Liane de Pougy, and Emilienne d'Alençon, also famous music hall performers, were the three great courtesans of Europe. They granted their favors to kings and princes, but also to wealthy industrialists, amassing tremendous fortunes as a result of carefully planned liasons. Men fought duels over Otero's affections. It was claimed (though never substantiated), that six men took their own lives after she ended her affairs with them.

SOLD Emilienne d'Alençon, one of Otero's rivals
In this period known as La Belle Époque, Otero and others like her were loved and admired by royalty and commoners alike. They were made welcome at tables in the humblest of cafes, and given access to the inner circles of the most exclusive social gatherings. Their lives and loves, their rivalries, victories and defeats, were gobbled up by a ravenous public, much as people wait today with bated breath for the latest episodes of popular television dramas.

The fabulously costumed images of these stars of the stage were available to all, on the faces of picture postcards, a new medium whose "golden age" coincided with la Belle Époque. The tantalizing photographic images of popular entertainers like La Belle Otero, along with hundreds of others, offered for mere pennies, were visible in shop windows in towns and cities all across Europe and available in kiosks everywhere, in train stations, on street corners. By maintaining some control over the rights to their images, some performers managed considerable profits from the sales of these postcard images, as well.

SOLD La Belle Otero wearing a body stocking and a cape.
With the advent of moving pictures, Caroline Otero also enjoyed the distinction of being perhaps the world's first movie star. In 1898, the famous Lumière Company produced a one minute film of Otero dancing in the Czar's St. Petersburg. The film was afterwards viewed by wide audiences all across Europe, adding to her fame. It is a wonderful glimpse of her, and of that wonderful era and, at least at the time of this posting, is actually available for viewing online!

By 1914, the magic of La Belle Epoque was fading away, its spell broken by the roar of cannon and the horrors of the "Great War." The picture postcard's vast popularity also faded amidst that chaos, never quite regaining its place of prominence in the hearts of the people.

WWI French propaganda image
In 1918, at the war's end, La Belle Otero, still beautiful, still greatly admired, was fifty years old and made the decision to retire gracefully from the stage. At one point in her life she was quoted as saying, "Women have one mission in life: to be beautiful. When one gets old, one must learn how to break mirrors. I am very gently expecting to die." (Time Magazine, quoted in wikipedia) She purchased a huge mansion, lived like the countess she claimed to be, was frequently seen wagering vast amounts of money in the casinos of Monte Carlo, and apparently spent her fortune as if it would last forever, which of course, it did not. The photographer Edward Quinn took a photograph of her in the 1950s, standing on a balcony where, then in her eighties, she enjoyed feeding the pigeons.

In 1965, at the age of 97, while living in a small one room apartment, in the Novelty Hotel in Nice, Caroline Otero died as a result of a heart attack. She was remembered by neighbors and acquaintances as often speaking of her past glories, and of that golden age, La Belle Époque, which in many ways had been typified by the lovely and celebrated La Belle Otero.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE La Belle Otero bids us "Adieu."
Exclusive coupon code for our fans: RPMUSINGS. Use this code during checkout from the Red Poulaine store on Etsy to receive a 10% discount on your purchase.

We are fortunate to have additional postcards of La Belle Otero on their way, featuring photographs taken by the great Reutlinger of Paris. These beautiful images will be available in Red Poulaine in the near future.

La Belle Otero in an elaborately decorated gown
La Belle Otero looking over her shoulder

Fatmé Sjemile, Escapee from the Sultan's Harem

On 26 Sep 1913, a young woman stepped off the ship France and onto US soil. She was just one of 1,826 passengers on the ship. According to the ship’s manifest and the Ellis Island paperwork, she was born in Turkey. But, we can speculate that the accuracy of her birthplace might only have been as accurate as her reporting of it, since many people arrived at Ellis Island without birth certificates or other proofs of identity.

Steamship France, Photo source: The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Although she was only 22, this lovely young woman had already achieved notoriety in the music halls of Paris. Now, possibly sensing the oncoming storm in Europe, or perhaps escaping more personal troubles, she was once more giving up the comforts and familiarity of her home in pursuit of a place where she could be free. Her name was Fatmé Sjemile, and she claimed she had been the favorite odalisque, or concubine, to the Sultan Abdul Hamid. Whether she was coming to America, as so many immigrants were, to avoid war or simply in search of a better life, or even fleeing agents of the Ottoman Empire, intent on capturing her and taking her back to the sultan’s palace, her spirit and determination were very much evident in the choices she made.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Fatmé Sjemile, Supreme Dancer of the Sultan of Turkey
At the turn of the twentieth century, Orientalism was at its height. French Colonial interests in the Mid-East, Asia, and North Africa offered inspiration to designers of Art Nouveau dress and jewelry. Mata Hari, a school teacher of Dutch origin, enthralled all of Europe with the fanciful Oriental image she had created for herself. In this postcard photograph, Fatmé wears a costume evocative of a 19th century Turkish dancing girl, precisely the image she wished to conjure for her audience. Even the texture of Fatmé’s hair is reminiscent of that of the Moss-Haired girls, the Circassian beauties, of P.T. Barnum’s invention fifty years before, who also were claimed to be harem girls escaped from Turkish sultans. 

We cannot know whether this flamboyant beauty’s claims were true, but we can appreciate the romance of her story: the harem girl who escaped from the sultan’s palace, made her way down the steep and treacherous mountains of Turkey and across Europe, and upon her arrival in Paris fascinated audiences with her Oriental dancing.

Madge Lessing, photographed by C.J. Horner of Boston. Dressed fancifully as a page, or perhaps as Cupid, Madge appears to be leaning against a friendly tiger in a scene reminiscent of John R. Neill's illustrations to some of the later OZ books, in particular, those featuring the Hungry Tiger.

Madge Lessing & friend, photo by C.J. Horner of Boston