Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unidentified Artiste Inspires Photographers and Painters for Over 100 Years

Like too many of our favorite images, this card has come and gone in a matter of a few hours, but she and her fabulous costume can have a place on our blog forever. We don't know the model's name, but we love this image!

SOLD Unidentified Artiste in Costume Orientale, c. 1910

The same model appears on another postcard below, image by Jean Agelou.

Grace La Rock, who, with Helmut Schmidt, operates Boudoir Cards, a beautiful site and a valuable source of information on postcards of La Belle Époque, as well as French and ethnic erotic postcards, has done a watercolor painting inspired by Agélou's image of our unidentified model. Helmut and Grace are customers of ours and, on hearing about this painting, we asked if we might share it on our blog. So many of our customers are involved in art of one sort or another and draw inspiration from these fine old images, and we are so very pleased when we can share examples of this with our readers. Below, is the original postcard image and the painting Grace created from it. Just wonderful.

Photograph by Jean Agélou of Unidentified Artiste Lounging in Lingerie and Wonderful Hat
Original Painting by Grace La Rock

Here is what Grace had to say about this painting:
Capturing me with her hypnotic eyes, and voluptuous curves, I find this vintage doll rather intriguing. She was my first water color rendering after almost 20 years. I prefer pale vintage rose for color, but chose to make her into more of a cupcake like she is. I plan to paint other poses of her in the future with more muted tones. This photograph was originally made by Jean Agélou, and shows that nudity is not necessary to become erotic. If only I had her hat and vintage lingerie.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eve with Snake, by Henri Manuel

Talk about a time machine.... The feel of the period derived from a card like this one is sensational. There is something about a fine photograph in natural sepia tones that is just so...wonderful. Images of Eve being tempted by the snake abound, being a favorite of artists of all ages, but rarely has Eve managed to look quite so humorously nonchalant about the encounter as she does in this image by Henri Manuel.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Fabulous French Faux Nude with Snake, circa 1900, by Henri Manuel

This postcard, published about 1900, features a superbly naive image of an unidentified model  “en collant” (in a body stocking) with a really great snake! One has to wonder, when viewing an image of this kind, whether the goal was humor, titillation, gender politics, a biblical reference of any kind, or a mix of oh, so many things, but the quality of the image is undeniable. Her facial expression seems to us to say,  “Et alors! You think I can't handle this?”

This card was published by SIP (the Societe Industrielle de Photographie), one of the most prolific French postcard publishers at that time. The image was photographed by Henri Manuel, and given the age of the card (its production date, by its undivided back, is likely to have been before 1904), the photo would have been taken not long after Monsieur Manuel and his brother, Gaston (about whom we can find no information whatsoever), opened their first portrait studio in Paris, in 1900.

Henri Manuel's name appears on many of the cards we bring into our shop, and though most of the subjects we deal in are very lighthearted, Manuel himself was a serious photographer, and an astute business man. He became well known not only for his portraits of theatrical personalities, risque nudes, and romantic fantaisies, but more, for his portraits of famous politicians, art, architecture, and in 1910, “Manuel’s studio began providing a commercial service to news agencies for photographs known as ‘L’Agence universelle de reportage Henri Manuel.’” His studio grew to be the largest in Paris, a recognized center for the development of the photographic arts (please forgive the pun ☺), and for the three decades between 1914 and 1944, Henri Manuel held the post of official photographer for the French government. Because we know his studio operations were shut down during WWII, we wonder if during the last years he held that government post (when France was under German occupation), he worked for  “Free France,” but we haven't yet found a lot of history on that period. Henri Manuel passed away in 1947.

Just to give you an idea of the broad scope of the man's work, you can examine a few of the approximately 2500 photographs Manuel's studio produced of French prisons and juvenile facilities between the years 1929 and 1931, for the French Department of Justice. Pretty grim stuff, but though Red Poulaine is very much about the frolicsome fun, we feel it's important to give you background on our photographers and artistes when possible, and well...we just love the stories.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Sounds Of New York City, Circa 1920

We just finished listening to The Sounds of New York City, Circa 1920 from NPR's All Things Considered. This wonderful piece is tremendously evocative, and we highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in the times.

The sounds used in the NPR program were collected by Emily Thompson, a Princeton University history professor who has put together a website, The Roaring Twenties: An Interactive Exploration of the Historical Soundscape of New York City, which provides sound clips from the 1920s and '30s. Also highly recommended.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ida (Pinckney) Fuller, Belle Époque "Interpretive" Dancer

In Ida Fuller, née Pinckney (October 1, 1867-August 5, 1922), the well known Belle Époque "interpretive" dancer, we have a very clear example of the competitive twists and turns that sometimes occurred between performers of la Belle Époque.

RESERVED Ida Fuller, Skirt Dancer of La Belle Époque, circa 1905

Ida Fuller became widely known for her "skirt" dancing, also known as "butterfly" or "serpentine" dancing. This was a variety of dance which was, as far as we can determine, developed by the famous dancer, choreographer, and inventor, Loïe Fuller (January 15, 1862-January 2, 1928), a remarkable woman whose name became, in many ways, synonymous with Art Nouveau and the Belle Époque. Only one of the ways in which this is remarkable is the fact that Loïe Fuller (born Marie Louise Fuller) was a somewhat short, chubby girl from Illinois, not known for being a great beauty, who after gaining a middling reputation as an actress and singer in the States, made her way to Paris, opened at the Folies Bergeres, and became an almost instant success.  Although she did return, now and then, to the U.S., and maintained her citizenship here, she basically adopted France as her home, and France, most certainly, adopted her.

Portrait of Loïe Fuller, via Wikipedia

Loïe Fuller also founded a number of dance schools in the United States and Europe for students interested in following the path of this iconic dancer. A group of students at one such school, L'École de Loïe Fuller, can be seen in the following image:

SOLD Students of Belle Époque Dancer Loïe Fuller, circa 1905

Called her "muses," or "Fullerettes" Miss Fuller is said to have doted on her students (one of whom was, for a short time, Isadora Duncan), and in the choreography and production end of performances with these girls, her work was almost as highly regarded as was she herself for her own interpretive dance routines.

A pioneer of modern dance, Loïe Fuller was also the developer of the "serpentine," or "skirt" dance. Part of the magic of this style, which involved the manipulation of sometimes hundreds of yards of silk, creating flowing patterns around and above the dancer, was the effect of colored lights shone up through a glass floor upon which the dancer performed. Miss Fuller was one of the earliest developers of colored gels for theatrical lighting, as well as a number of chemical formulas for use in lighting effects. Though not born into high society, or highly educated, she counted among her closest friends, top ranking scientists and inventors, members of European royalty, and artists of all mediums.

Portrait of Loïe Fuller, by Frederick Glasier, 1902, via Wikipedia

Volumes could be (and have been), written about Loïe Fuller, dubbed "La Loie" by Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme and often affectionately called Lo-Lo by her admiring fans. The style of dance she introduced to the world was much copied and imitated. Her work was even parodied. In his book, The Victorian Visitors: Culture Shock in Nineteenth Century Britain, Rupert Christiansen tells of one amusing example: "the music hall star Little Tich, who parodied her [Loïe Fuller's "serpentine" dancing], as Miss Turpentine, swanning around the stage in yards of rapturous muslin and then breaking the sublime illusion by stopping to scratch her leg."

Scores of women claimed a close relationship to Loïe Fuller. Some even claimed to be her sister, going so far as to use the last name of Fuller, most of them illegitimately. But at least one could legitimately claim a familial relationship and the use of the Fuller name, and that one was Ida Fuller.

Less information can be found regarding Ida Fuller than Loïe. Born Ida Pinckney, in Forest City Iowa, in 1867, in biographical articles concerning Loïe, Ida is often dismissed as a mere imitator, a pretender to Loïe's own unique art form, the serpentine dance.  That Ida was a latecomer, who made use of Loïe's already developed style to work out her own routines, is almost certain. To dismiss her, however, as a mere imitator, is probably not entirely fair.

It has been suggested that Ida's "claims" that she was a relation of Loïe's, were untrue. Our research suggests otherwise. Ida Pinckney married Frank Rodney Fuller, Loïe's elder brother, making the two women sisters-in-law. Frank was an electrician with extensive knowledge of Loïe's lighting effects, reputed to have been involved in her earliest successes with her dance routines, and it is likely that he used his skills to help his wife in her own dance routines.

The Lake Mills Graphic, a newspaper published in Lake Mills, Iowa, made note of Ida Fuller as she passed through town. The following snippets were shared on a genealogical forum by one of Ida Fuller's relatives:

Lake Mills Graphic, Iowa, 17 Oct 1894: 

Lake Mills Graphic, Iowa 6 July 1898:

We also found a copy of an emergency passport application filled out by Ida in 1898, in Vienna. Witnessing this application is Frank R. Fuller, who, as mentioned above, was Loïe Fuller's older brother.

U.S. Passport Application for Ida Fuller, Issue Date: 26 Nov 1898*

This document at least establishes that Ida's claim to a familial relationship, if by marriage, is true enough.

Additionally, the "Fire Dance," a routine for which Loie herself became very well known, and to whom its invention is generally credited, was, (evidenced by our research), actually an invention not of Loïe's, but of Ida's, who performed the routine widely, both in Europe and in the United States.

In Forty Years of Observation of Music and Drama, by Robert Grau, 1909 Broadway Publishing Co., Grau, clearly a fan of Loïe Fuller's work, praised her artistic accomplishments, and bemoaned the fact that her genius had gone unappreciated in America. However, when touching on Ida, he writes (on page 240):
Ida Fuller is not a sister of Loie, but her sister in law. She married Frank Fuller, an electrician, who was closely identified with Loie's first success It is only fair to Ida to explain that her greatest achievement, the basic foundation of the success which she has so struggled for, the fire dance, is her own creation, as more than one important interest in theatricals has discovered by decisions in courts of equity, which give to Ida Fuller, for all time, undisputable protection to her patents and creations.
Loie's brother Burt (Loie's younger brother), also apparently an electrician, is often credited with having worked closely with Loie in the production of her routines, and Frank (her older brother), often goes unmentioned. We suspect that a rift developed between Loie and Frank, and can only imagine the unfortunate vituperations which must have arisen between them when Frank assisted his wife, Ida, in the development of the "Fire Dance."

On the other hand, we need to remember that although Loïe Fuller had the reputation of being extremely secretive as far as her "serpentine" dance routines and their lighting effects were concerned, in show business, whether in the moving picture industry, which was in its early infancy at that time, or on the stage, between dancers, or stage magicians (whose illusions immediately come to mind when thinking of Loïe and Ida Fuller's work), feuds between performers made the press, and what made the press made for public interest, and that translated into showers of gold. So we may never know for certain whether or not Ida and Frank actually hijacked Loïe's invention of serpentine dancing, or whether it was willingly shared among members of the same family.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Serpentine Dancer a la Loïe Fuller, Posted in 1907

If in France the reception of this style of dancing was embraced with excitement and enthusiasm, it was not always so elsewhere. Below is a quote from On and Off, a collection of theatrical interviews published in London, in 1894 by journalist Gilbert Dalziel, who refers to himself as "Mr. Call Boy" (note that the satirical voice of the book calls into question the accuracy of anything reported) in which he reveals, during the introduction to an interview with dancer Mimi St. Cyr, the contempt he feels for this style:

"As certainly as the Serpentine dance has been overdone, so has it been misnamed. The Serpentine dance, as we know it, is not serpentine at all. It's a waving of the skirts which is far more suggestive of clothes hanging out to dry in a high wind than of serpents."

We think it is rather a shame that Mr. Call Boy should have written so derisively of the style of dance in which Ida Fuller specialized, particularly when earlier in the book, he publishes an interview she granted him! Following is a portion of that interview in which Ida Fuller briefly, and somewhat humorously talked about one aspect of her dancing:

"I hear that this dancing with the arms is much more fatiguing than dancing with the legs. Is that a fact, Miss Fuller?"

"It is just that, Mr. Call Boy. And for why? In dancing with your arms you have to hold them up so, or stretch them out like that (suiting actions to words), and all the blood runs out of them. There's not much natural strength where there's no blood, you know, and consequently one kind of dancing is more tiring than the other. I find the Butterfly dance a tremendous strain. Dancing with your legs is a different thing altogether. They are more or less in their natural position; the feet are mostly pointed to the floor, and when a leg is thrown above the head, it is only for a moment. It is back again before it knows it has been there!"

In Art Nouveau: The French Aesthetic, Victor Arwas describes the physical challenges of this kind of dancing, particularly in terms of the manipulation of the long bamboo rods to which were attached the flowing silks. In fact, La Loie, and presumably Ida Fuller also, sometimes manipulated hundreds of yards of silk during her performances, causing them to gracefully billow and take shape as high as thirty feet in the air above her.

But, as to the artistic merits of this style of dance, our readers can be the judge. The following YouTube video will treat you to a delightful collection of very early motion picture clips, wherein a number of women (who knows, perhaps one of them is Ida Fuller!), perform this style of dance.

*Although we have read that Loie Fuller, herself, never made a motion picture of her work, we observe that the dancer in clip number seven does at least resemble La Loie.

*This image of Ida Fuller's U.S. Passport Application was from Ancestry.com. (Source Citation: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Emergency Passport Applications (Issued Abroad), 1877-1907; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 1187503 / MLR Number A1 515; NARA Series: M1834; Roll #: 14; Volume #: 22. Source Information: Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chrysanthèmes and Dragonfly by Henri Manuel, circa 1905

Unlike Leopold Reutlinger and Count Ostorog, aka Walery, who seemed to specialize in "entertainment" photography, Henri Manuel, who with his brother, Gaston, operated the largest photography studio in Paris, covered a very broad array of subjects. That is not to say that Walery and Reutlinger didn't ever step out of the showgirl portrait genre, we know they did, but Manuel was the official photographer for the French government between 1914 and 1944, established one of the earliest "news" photo services, and was well known for his architectural studies.

Henri Manuel's photograph of Auguste Rodin and the Duchesse de Choiseul at the Hôtel Biron. Wikipedia

He did not, however, shy away from "eye candy;" far from it! He was quite adept at risque images, and managed to bring a very artful feel to many of his "artiste" portraits.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Chrysanthèmes by Henri Manuel
This card offers a fine example of this, we think. Without question, la Belle Epoque, in France, was the era of the chrysanthemum. In images of pretty young dancers, mothers with their little girls in tow, opera divas, etc., the use of the chrysanthemum as a hair decoration was ubiquitous. Most often, they are seen worn at the temples, and here Manuel positions the flowers in their accustomed location, but without removing them from the stem, creating a thoughtful study with a feel of nature, and the placement of the dragonfly is wonderful. Really a gorgeous image.

***Note*** It might be of some interest to collectors that during WWII almost all of the photographic plates housed in the Manuel studio were destroyed, making images by H. Manuel all but irreplaceable.

Thanks to Wikipedia for most of the historical information in this posting.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Italia Almirante, Ravishing Star of Italian Silent Film

The ravishingly beautiful Signorina Almirante starred in some of the earliest silent films. She came from a theater family, and began her career on stage. She made a number of successful films, only one of them a talkie. 

The film represented in this image, "L'Arzigogolo," whose title translates as "The Convoluted," was made in 1924, and although the star is listed as Italia Almirante, it was in 1919 that Italia Almirante married the well known journalist Amerigo Manzini, and was thereafter most frequently known by Almirante-Manzini. The film was the smash hit of the season, with twisted romance, intrigue and murder.

Alberto Collo, her co-star (we simply love his costume), was a very popular silent film actor who did continue with talkies. His last film was made in 1954, at the age of 76. In 1955, in Turin, he simply disappeared.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Italia Almirante, Silent Film Diva, circa 1920s
In 1935, Signorina Almirante-Manzini moved to Brazil (conceivably she and her husband felt uncomfortable in the rapidly changing political environment of the time-many did-particularly journalists).

In Brazil, she continued with theater until 1941, when she died, reportedly as a result of being bitten by a poisonous insect. 

A marvelously evocative unposted card, published by Signore Falci of Milan in the early 1920s.

Happy Bastille Day!

We have so many wonderful postcards and images from France, so many French actresses (and the occasional actor), so many French photographers, that we just can't let France's National Day, Bastille Day, pass without notice.

Eiffel Fireworks by Timo Elliot
Happy Bastille Day!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

To Live In The 1920's

Here's a fun video composed of clips from vintage footage, showing a bit of what life was like in the 1920s. Tell you what, we'd love to have one of those fold-up cars!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cléo de Mérode Giveaway Winner!

We are happy to announce that, as the happy purchaser of our 1,000th item on Etsy, Karen Donaldson (oneundonebird) will be receiving the very special Cléo de Mérode postcard featured in our Giveaway. Congratulations, Karen!

Exquisite Cleo De Merode Giveaway Card, circa 1900
We are currently getting our packages ready to ship, so Karen should be receiving her gift in just a few short days.

Many thanks to all of our wonderful customers who have helped us to reach this milestone! We are grateful to each and every one of you.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cléo de Mérode Giveaway Explanation and Update

We're sure that by now all our regular customers are aware of the fact that we're prepared to give away a postcard in excellent posted condition featuring an image taken by Leopold Reutlinger of Paris of the beautiful Cléo de Mérode to the customer who buys the 1,000th item to be purchased from our Red Poulaine Etsy shop.

 NOT FOR SALE Exquisite Cleo De Merode Giveaway Card, circa 1900
We've recently fielded a few questions about how the giveaway works, and we want to make sure all of you have the answers.

First, cards placed on reserve do not count toward the giveaway. Only actual purchases registered by Etsy as completed sales will count. You can see our total number of sales on the menu at the left side of our shop page, as shown in the following image:

Snapshot of Red Poulaine's shop on Etsy, showing the location of our sales figures.
NOTE: The number (984 sales) shown in this image reflects our sales status as of the moment we captured this image. To obtain the current status, you must click through to check our shop on Etsy.

Second, each card purchased is counted toward our total number of sales. Etsy counts each item purchased as a separate sale, even when there are multiple items in an order. If a customer comes in and purchases three cards in a single order, that will count as three sales. We really have nothing to do with counting the sales, as we are using Etsy's counter to determine the final outcome of the giveaway.

We have had customers come in and purchase more than 20 cards at once. That could happen this next minute, and the level would be reached. Or people could buy them one at a time, right up until the 1000th sale, and that could take quite some time.

What this means for you is that it will be possible for someone, maybe you, to swoop in and purchase multiple cards, bringing our total sales to 1,000 in one fell swoop! Or, you could wait, carefully watching until the next purchase will be the 1,000th. It's a bit like one of those radio call-ins, where the 17th caller wins.

Will you be the lucky customer to buy our 1,000th item and receive the lovely Cléo card? We hope so! And we're watching closely so we can announce the final outcome.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tremendous Tresses

The featured cards in our shop currently include images of women with beautiful, long hair.

Prior to the 1920s, the traditional hairstyles for women almost always seemed to include long hair. That hair might be pinned up to fantastic heights, but take out the pins and the hair fell well past the shoulders, sometimes to the waist, hips, or even farther. And, as anyone who's ever worn long hair knows, taking care of that extra long mane takes lots of time and effort. Which may be one reason that we look with such amazement at these images of women wearing their long and luxurious hair down, so that it accentuates their beauty and grace.

The first of our featured cards is, of course, the card that we will be giving away with our 1,000th purchase. (See details.) In this image, Cléo de Mérode wears her hair down and we can see that, at least in front, her hair descends below her bustline, indicating that the full length is almost certainly well down her back. As always, of course, she is lovely.

Exquisite Cleo De Merode Giveaway Card for 1,000th Purchase, circa 1900

The second of our featured images is a lovely photograph of an unidentified model, holding a bouquet of violet-colored flowers, whose hair falls down her back to arrive in the vicinity of her derriere. This model's hair may be the longest of those featured. The beautifully hand-colored card was published by Misange, most probably in either France or Germany sometime about 1910.

Polka Dots and Peonies. So Lovely. circa 1905/10

Our next featured image depicts an actress with beautiful long curls and a wild feathered hat. The expression on her face is so wonderful, making us think that she offers some words of wisdom for some wanderer. Perhaps, given the deliberately tattered nature of her gown, she is a fairy in disguise, and is about to gift some hero or heroine with some magical ability. Her hair, certainly, is worthy of any fairy queen.

Miry Cassari Belle Epoque Stage Performer in a Lovely Big Hat, dedicated, circa 1912

Of note is the fact that this is a signed card, apparently signed in 1912 following a stage performance in Beaune (pronounced almost as in the English word "bone"), Burgundy, which is between Paris and Geneva. Based on her signature, the actress' name is Miry Cassari, or perhaps Lassari, but we have been unable to find any information about her and she remains a mystery. This is a wonderful image, and in a way there is something wistfully romantic and magical about the autograph of a forgotten actress. So often we have read about the immortality of the old gods having been dependent upon the worship of their followers. Perhaps, merely through the appreciation of this fine, evocative image, we can breathe a little life into the "joie de vivre" expressed by this lovely young woman, so long ago, and share in some of it ourselves.

The final featured item is this lovely biogravure by Steglitz, circa 1905. The maiden portrayed in this image is crowned by a wreath of flowers, which, together with her long, unbound hair symbolizes Spring and the purity and innocence of youth. Appropriately, the photographer has captured her with her gaze turned down, deftly maintaining the Arcadian ambiance.

Crown of Flowers, Jugendstil Epoche Maiden, Biogravure by Steglitz, circa 1905

Monday, June 24, 2013

Woodland Nymph Teasing Butterfly, circa 1910s

The "Naturist" movement was pervasive during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and, like the common appearance of classical/fantasy romantic imagery on the picture postcard of the time, suggests to us, a turning away of the public imagination from the onslaught of the industrial age, to say nothing of the dark clouds of war, which were gathering over Europe at just about the time we believe this card was published. 

If the term photo-realism is commonly used to describe a particular quality of some paintings, how about we coin the term painterly-fantasticallism for application to this photographic image?

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Woodland Nymph Teasing Butterfly, Circa 1910s

This wonderful German nude was published by die Neue Photographische Gesellschaft, or NPG. Based in Berlin, NPG was one of the largest international producers of the picture postcard during that period. 

Reverse of Card

Clear Example of NBC Logo
Point of interest: In the "stamp box" on the back side of this card is the somewhat faded logo of the "NBC," Neue Bromsilber Convention, or the "New Silver-bromide Convention." Whenever this logo is found on a card, we can date its production to sometime after August of 1909, when the NBC was initially convened.

The NBC was, for lack of a better term, a cartel (one of many, actually), established by a large number of German publishers of silver-bromide print photo postcards, whose intent was to control prices and maintain a competitive edge. This might be called "price fixing" today, and perhaps a blatant violation of today's trade laws, but was quite common during this period. An indication of the strength of this cartel within the industry is the great frequency with which we run into cards bearing this imprint.

Also, just for fun, it's worth noting the design of the logo itself, a blazing sun within an equilateral triangle, which was printed in a variety of colors. Like the classic eye in the triangle, this symbol is often closely associated with occult, or "secret" societies. Ah, nothing like a little conspiracy with our morning coffee. :)

In dating this card, our guess is sometime in the early 1910s. The NBC, as we wrote above, dates from 1909, and apparently was still in operation by the early 1930s, so we can only rely on our own personal experience to fix an approximate date of issue. As always, any corrections we receive from readers are not just appreciated, but sincerely requested! We often draw our information from a huge swirling mass of sources called by our sons, "teh interwebs." These sources often offer us contradictory information so any help in the navigation of these storm-tossed depths is always most welcome. 

The absolutely wonderful site from which we drew all of our information on the NBC cartel, The Postcard Album, also lists an NPG logo for the publisher. The NPG logo they display is 
from the 1920s and very similar to the one on this card, but the NPG logo on the front of our card differs in certain respects, and without specific evidence to the contrary we have to trust our eyes. This image looks pre-1920s to us.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Italian Silent Film Diva, Pina Menichelli, in Velvet Jumpsuit

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Italian Silent Film Diva, Pina Menichelli, in Velvet Jumpsuit

Reverse of postcard

One of the most beautifully expressive faces of the Italian cinema, Pina Menichelli, radiates dramatic presence even in this casual attire. We are particularly fond of one series of images (of which this is one), which used what appears, at first, to be a very casual crosshatching design as a frame, but the sweep of these markings, up and out from the center, creates an instantaneous feeling of depth, and also draws us into the center, where Signorina Menichelli, in highly contrasting dark and light tones, becomes our only focus with no exterior distraction (our eyes having dismissed the crosshatching). 

Do we over-think this stuff? Probably :) But we really do find the artistic construction of these simple portraits exciting and moving. In short, we love what these photographers, working with these amazing models, were able to achieve!

We also love being able to show you cards in this almost pristine condition, as if you had just stepped off a train in Milan, in 1921, and while waiting for your aunt, who was to meet you at the station but is late in arriving, you stop at a kiosk which sells newspapers, magazines and postcards. This particular image catches your eye, because only last month you so enjoyed Pina in one of her films, wearing this oh-so-modern outfit. As you remember sitting in the dark cinema with your sweetheart, the sights and sounds of the busy railway station disappear...

Now, for a real treat, follow the link below to this YouTube video, so that you can better remember that wonderful experience! We recommend a bowl of fresh popcorn and a SanPellegrino Limonata sweetened with two tablespoons of sugar. Ah, Perfetto!


Traveling through time and space is what we we are all about here at Red Poulaine. Please think of us as your own personal Tardis. :)

Mlle. Nostier in Swan-Bill Corset by Leopold Reutlinger, circa 1905

This lovely postcard, with a message in the ubiquitous violet ink of the period, and presumably posted to Moscow in 1907 (stamp missing), offers an image of a Mlle. Nostier (the only image of her we have ever seen), that was taken by Leopold Reutlinger and published by Monsieur G. Piprot of Paris. This image was also reproduced at about the same time on a Melia cigarette card.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE French Actress Mlle. Nostier, in Swan-Bill Corset and Mutton Chop Sleeves, circa 1905

At the turn of 20th century, it was a common practice to use ink of that most romantic of colors, violet, when writing letters or postcard messages, especially when writing to a lover. This postcard has such a message, written in a particularly lovely hand. The message appears to have been inscribed by a Russian, Dimitri, in French, a language used commonly by the Russian aristocracy, but less commonly by Russian postal carriers, to his sweetheart back in Moscow.

Reverse of Mlle. Nostier in Swan-Bill Corset, circa 1905 postcard by Leopole Reutlinger

In the image on the front of the postcard, Mlle. Nostier is presenting a rather fine example of a "Gibson Girl," with her lovely upswept hair, mutton chop sleeves and the narrow waist and S-curve posture created by the "swan-bill" corset which was often worn to achieve the classic "Gibson" look.

The Gibson Girl image was so called after the extremely popular, and influential, illustrations produced during the late 19th/early 20th century by American artist Charles Dana Gibson, and used with great effect by other popular illustrators such as Howard Chandler Christy, and Harrison Fisher. The look remained popular into the WWI era, when it was gradually displaced by the new styles popularized by the "flapper." Quite a radical shift, we think, but of course ours is an over simplification of that transition.

Following, is a quote from Wikipedia's article History of Corsets, describing the swan bill or straight-front corset. Thanks Wikipedia!
The straight-front corset, also known as the swan-bill corset, the S-bend corset or the health corset, was worn from circa 1900 to the early 1910s. Its name is derived from the very rigid, straight busk inserted in the center front of the corset. This corset forced the torso forward and made the hips jut out in back.
The straight-front corset was popularized by Inez Gaches-Sarraute, a corsetiere with a degree in medicine. It was intended to be less injurious to wearers' health than other corsets in that it exerted less pressure on the stomach area. However, any benefits to the stomach were more than counterbalanced by injury caused to the back due to the unnatural posture that it forced upon its wearer. At this time, the bust lowered and corsets provided much less support for the breasts.

So, given that this card was posted in 1907, and the swan-bill corset went out of fashion only a few years later, we thought that we might "stretch" things just a bit and say that this was its...

Swan Song! :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cléo de Mérode Giveaway to Celebrate Our 1,000th Sale!

Red Poulaine has been in business for so short a time, that it really took us by surprise when we realized that we will soon be selling our 1,000th item! We thank all of you very much for being our wonderful customers, and to celebrate this event, we plan to include a very special card, one that we hope any of our customers would be very happy to add to their collections, in the order that includes our 1,000th sale as a special thank you.

So, with the clock ticking and the calendar pages flying, we conducted a search far and wide for just the right card, one with a very beautiful image and an enticing history, to grace the collection of one very special customer. And we found it!

NOT FOR SALE Exquisite Cleo De Merode Giveaway Card, circa 1900
This beautiful image of Cléo de Mérode will belong to the customer who makes the 1,000th purchase from our shop. 

Cléo de Mérode (September 27th , 1875-October 17th, 1966) is possibly the most well-known dancer of La Belle Époque. Certainly she was the postcard queen of the era, and took great care with the images of her, making careful use of the medium to help promote her public recognition. Her postcard images are some of the most sought after and often the most expensive of all the "artistes."

The daughter of the Austrian-born nobleman and landscape painter Karl von Mérode, and given the exotic name Cléopâtre Diane de Mérode at birth (although her mother called her Lulu), she started taking dance lessons when only 7- or 8-years-old and made her stage debut at the tender age of 11. As Cléo de Mérode, she went on to become an international star, known for her tiny waist, grace, and exquisite beauty. As one of the most glamorous of the stars of that time, she was sought after by many artists and photographers. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Puyo, Alfredo Muller, Giovanni Boldini, and Gustav Klimt painted her, Alexandre Falguière sculpted her, and photographers such as Léopold Émile Reutlinger, who took the image above, Félix Nadar, Henri Manuel, Charles Ogerau, and others vied to immortalize her image. There was even a wax effigy made of her in 1895 by sculptor Leopold Bernstamm, which was displayed in the Grevin Museum

Early in her career, in 1896, when Cléo was just 22, King Léopold II of Belgium became entranced by her performance in a ballet. Léopold, then 61 years of age, already had two children by a woman rumored to be a prostitute and his pursuit of Cléo was enough to damage her reputation. Cléo, and her mother, who traveled with her, rejected the allegations. In an October 5th, 1897 interview with the New York Times, her mother, Mme. Mérode, insisted that although Cléo had been required to meet with the king, she did so only with her mother's chaperonage. Cléo herself said, "It Is horrible - horrible - that they should so pursue me with such monstrous lies! The King of the Belgians is no more to me than any other great man who has admired me on the stage, whom I have seen for a few moments off the stage very rarely, and always in the presence of many other persons."

Cléo may have been chaste, but she knew the worth of her beauty and charm as she rose to international stardom. A month prior to the Times interview, she was interviewed for a September 24th piece in the Delphos, Ohio Daily Herald. The interviewer enthused about her charms before sharing her comments:
For some months New York has been anticipating the arrival of Cleo de Merode, the Parisian dancer, the fame of whose wonderful beauty is now worldwide. And not only New York, but the whole country has felt more than common interest in the arrival on these shores of this odd young woman who has done nothing but dance and yet has turned the heads of monarchs, and at whose feet have been showered jewels and gifts that in the aggregate are worth an immense fortune.
 Now that she has come to America, the interest in her attractive personality amounts to a continuous furore. Indeed Cleo de Merode is charming. Lithe and elegant, in an ecru gown embroidered in openwork over white silk, beautiful enough to dispense with wit, she replied to a thousand questions asked her by her many admirers as naturally as if she were witty enough to dispense with beauty. Her hazel eyes reflected a world. Her delicate features, animated by the excitement of her arrival, harmonized admirably with her rich, silky hair, dark with tints of red, and dressed in two wavy bands over her ears. Her black eyebrows commanded. Her smile was sweet, and what a spectacle it was when she lowered her eyelids and let one admire in their length her immeasurable brown lashes!
"I dance the ancient dances," she said, "the Louis XIII, the Louis XV, the gavot, the pavan, the minuet, and I led at Royan Louis Ganne's ballet of 'Phryne.' I am gowned by a real dressmaker. I know music very well, and play the piano as little as possible. I know how to arrange a basket of fruit, place flowers in a jardiniere and touch a book without spoiling it. I have read the poets and the historians, and I do not write. I wear stockings that are as fine as a woven mist. What other accomplishments shall I speak of?"

Although she pretended to make little of her famed beauty, saying she had, "a style of face conventional enough to have pleased a great number of people," Cléo de Mérode made effective use of it, comparing herself to the subject of da Vinci's Mona Lisa (Jaconda). Clearly, as a consummate performer, she knew that her audience required a level of audacity that few women of the time expressed.

Figures 14, 15 of La Belle - Jaconda, by Leonardo da Vinci for Hohenstatt  Analysis
Do you see the resemblance? It is most pronounced in figure 14, but we think Cléo's beauty was even greater than that of da Vinci's model.

Although Cléo was an elite ballerina dancing in a time when there was a firm separation between those who danced on the ballet stage and those who danced in the less respectable Parisian dance halls, in 1901, while at the peak of her career, Cléo, in a brilliant career move, performed at the Folies Bergère. This was a bold move for a ballerina with a serious career, yet her performance was such that she gained an even greater following. It was through such brilliant publicity moves, along with her ability as a dancer, that Cléo was able to maintain her position as one of Paris' most successful dancers, stretching her career into her 50s before finally retiring from the stage.

Despite her statement in 1897 that she did not write, Cléo would, in 1955, publish her autobiography, Le Ballet de ma vie (The Dance of My Life). When she died in 1966 at the age of 96, Cléo de Mérode was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris alongside her mother. A statue of her, depicting her in mourning for her mother, now decorates the headstone the two woman share.

"Cleo de Merode (1875-1966)," Stage Beauty, http://www.stagebeauty.net/th-frames.html?http&&&www.stagebeauty.net/demerode/demerode-c.html (accessed June 20, 2013).
"Cleo de Merode (1875-1966): In Press and Literature," Stage Beauty, http://www.stagebeauty.net/th-frames.html?http&&&www.stagebeauty.net/demerode/demerode-c3.html (accessed June 20, 2013).
Dash, "Cleo de Merode," French Sampler, http://thefrenchsampler.blogspot.com/2011/04/cleo-de-morode.html (accessed June 20, 2013).
Red List contributors, "Cléo de Mérode," Muses, The Red List, http://theredlist.fr/wiki-2-24-525-770-925-view-1900s-1-profile-cleo-de-merode.html (accessed June 20, 2013).
Wikipedia [France] contributors, "Cleo de Merode," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cl% C3% A9o_de_M% C3% A9rode & oldid = 93532911 (Accessed June 20, 2013).
Wikipedia [France] contributors, "Musee Grevin," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mus% C3% A9e_Gr% C3% A9vin & oldid = 93716003 (accessed June 20, 2013).
Wikipedia [USA] contributors, "Cléo de Mérode," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cl%C3%A9o_de_M%C3%A9rode&oldid=540349043 (accessed June 20, 2013).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Images of the Fantastic in La Belle Époque

One aspect of La Belle Époque, not just in France either, was a very palpable embrace of antiquity, and though often in a rather naive fashion by today's standards, one gets the sense that people were turning away from the onslaught of the industrial explosion and towards the real, and imagined, simplicity of earlier times. With this came a sense of the possibility of magic, and the ubiquity of images like this one, in which we wouldn't be terribly surprised to see faeries or woodland sprites cavorting about.

SOLD Wood Nymph at the Well
Or, perhaps we expect at any moment to see a faun, satyr, or even Bacchus, himself!

SOLD Nymph Calling Forth the Woodland Sprites circa 1905

We love the way in which the magical is suggested in these images, without the introduction of a single truly fantastic element. These images make us feel much as we might when reading a fairy tale, that at any moment something truly marvelous will happen.

Nymphs, Naiads, Dryads, and Faerie folk so often cropped up in La Belle Époque. Found throughout the period from popular entertainment to commercial advertising, these images reflected a blossoming of Western occult experimentation and a yearning for magic, for myth made manifest. We've written before of our fondness for images depicting the Marvelous Maenad, which is not only a subgenre of the "Lovely Lady" category, but of fantasy postcards, as well.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Maenad at the Garden Wall, circa 1900
Maenads could be seductive, inviting the viewer to join them in the Bacchanal, as in the previous image, but they could also be depicted as shy and elusive creatures of the wilderness, emerging from a tangle of vines, perhaps looking back with a mixture of amusement and discomfiture at a pursuer.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Maenad Peering Through the Trees, circa 1910s/20s
Even more interesting, we think, is the fact that this new medium, the picture postcard, made available to anyone with a penny or two the possibility of possessing such an image, one in which an obviously very real human being is pictured in a fairyland setting. We take photographs for granted today, of course, but think about it for just a moment—at the turn of the 20th century, this was all entirely new. Prior to this time, fantastic photo images of human beings were seldom accessible to the common man, woman or child, and we cannot take lightly the effect of "likeness" on the human psyche, and it's worth considering the effect this mass phenomenon had on society. Mass phenomenon, you wonder? Really? Absolutely. Just as an example, in the United States alone, "the official figures from the U.S. Post Office for their fiscal year ending June 30, 1908, cite 677,777,798 postcards mailed. At that time the total population of the United States was only 88,700,000!" (Thanks to emotionscards.com for their fascinating article that provided us with that factoid.)

Leopold Reutlinger, the Belle Époque photographer, took thousands of photographs of famous Parisian actresses. These were published in black and white, cropped to close up and republished, hand tinted, glittered, sequined, published again, and when every imaginable possibility had been explored, he superimposed these images onto wonderfully fantastic, often surreal backgrounds. The "Artiste with Bird" series is one of our favorites and quite collectible. As of this writing, we have two such images, both by Reutlinger and in unusually fine condition.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Marguerite Brezil, Belle Epoque French Actress, Interspecial Romance Image by Reutlinger

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Avian Romance Fantaisie by Leopold Reutlinger of Paris, circa 1905
Can't you just imagine these lovely ladies as heroines in fairy tales, in which for their kindness they have been rewarded the ability to speak the language of the birds? Or, perhaps the bird in the picture is actually an enchanted prince, in need of saving by the brave young woman.

One of the issues with Reutlingers "fantaisies," is that although the artiste's name was usually printed on the face of the card in its early incarnations, by the time they got to these dramatic creations, the name would often be left off. This was fine at the time, since their faces were very well known, but not today. We've been able to identify the first of these two beauties as Marguerite Brezil, but the identity of the second remains a mystery and we would welcome any clues that might shed some light on this.

These wonderful fantasy-inspired photographic images quite clearly reflect the same underlying ideals found in Victorian fairy paintings and Victorian attempts to portray fairies in photographs, a connection which ties them in with the Romanticism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In his examination of fairy paintings, Jeremy Mass identifies "the turn to mythological and fantasy elements, and in particular to the fairy's world, [ as allowing] an escape from these demands. 'No other type of painting concentrates so many of the opposing elements of the Victorian psyche: the desire to escape the drear hardships of daily existence; the stirrings of new attitudes toward sex, stifled by religious dogma; a passion for the unseen; the birth of psychoanalysis; the latent revulsion against the exactitude of the new invention of photography.'" That photographs, emblematic in some eyes of the science and technology that was displacing many traditional beliefs and occupations, could be manipulated to portray the longed-for simplicity and magic of a bygone (never-was) era was marvelously ironic and ironically marvelous. Photographs, which Jeremy Mass, and many others!, fuse with conformity to a hard and unforgiving realism have, from almost the very moment they came into existence, been used to portray the world in ways the eyes are rarely able to see, providing us with visual evidence of the magic we all long to see.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Second Sunday in May is coming up in just one week! Happy Mother's Day! We thought we'd feature four cards this week with images either directly relating to motherhood, or close enough. :)

We hope it's a wonderful day for all moms and their children, and wish you all the very best. Please feel welcome to take advantage of a 25% discount on any item in the shop by using the coupon code THANKSMOM, at check out. This discount will be good only through May 12th, so make sure you hurry!

Belle Epoque Mother and Daughter by Heinrich Traut, circa 1905
Charming Portrait of Mother and Child, circa 1910
Lovely Early 1900s Mother and Daughter RPPC

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guest Blogger Mayra Esquivel: Biography of Jeanne Lanvin, Fashion Designer, 1867 – 1946

Every now and then, we come across someone who is able to share a new perspective on a subject of interest to our readers. Mayra Esquivel is such an individual. A student studying Fashion Design at Pima Community College, Mayra's interest in the fashion designers whose work adorned the fashionable women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has led to this biography of Jeanne Lanvin. We hope you enjoy Mayra's article as much as we have.

Jeanne Lanvin, Fashion Designer, 1867 – 1946
by Mayra Esquivel, Fashion Student, Pima Community College

Jeanne Lanvin. Photograph by Talbot.
Jeanne-Marie Lanvin was born in Brittany, France. She was the oldest of 11 children, since her family was really poor she didn’t have much education. When she turned 13, she was employed as an apprentice by a hat maker. Although she was spending more time cleaning the workshop and delivering the hats, she learned well how to make hats, so she started to make and sell dolls hats on her own in the toy stores of the neighborhood. In 1885, at the age of 18, with good business experience and enough savings she opened her own hat company. In the beginning it was difficult, but later on her business was successful, and she was able to expand and move to Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, where the company remains.

Jeanne Lanvin got married in 1896 and divorced in 1903. Born of this union was her only daughter, Marguerite. For Lanvin, being a single mother had a negative effect on her business. In 1907 she married a journalist, Xavier Melèt, but it was not a happy marriage; it was considered an arrangement of convenience. They remained married until 1953 when Melèt died.

Lanvin was the first to design children’s clothes. She designed for her daughter, using her as a model, and creating scaled-down versions of clothing for adults. Her hat clients loved her designs and the fact that mother and daughter could wear similar clothes. In 1909, Jeanne began making dresses for sale. She made no distinction between women’s and children’s wear; her designs were youthful, sophisticated, and featured exquisite handmade detail. The demand for her designs persuaded Jeanne to open a couture house selling mother-daughter garments and, thus, started her career as “Grand Couturier.” Since Marguerite was the unofficial model, as she was growing, Jeanne’s collections grew to target additional clients matching her daughter’s age.

Marie Blanche Polignac, née Lanvin
Her designs were easy to recognize for her skilful use of embroidery, fine craftsmanship, and a particular shade of blue, “Lanvin Blue”. The inspirations in her embroidery patterns were influenced by other cultures: from the Middle East, the geometric shapes, vertical rows, and horizontal border patterns; from China, the traditional symbol of longevity. Her designs used silk, taffeta, velvet, silk chiffon, organza, lace, tulle, and included a lot of free-flowing ribbons, ruffles, flowers, and linked ornaments like appliqué, couching, quilting, parallel stitching, and her main touch, the embroidery. Her creations were considered ultra-feminine, with fitted bodices and long, full skirts. The “robe de style” was one of the well-known collections. Features often found in her designs included scooped-necks, drop waists, cap sleeves, or sleeveless bodices, and full skirts with volume at the hips. These designs were comfortable and classic, appropriate for all ages of women. In order to keep the “robe de style” interesting from season to season she updated her designs. In the mid-1920’s they were abundant, including double silhouettes, and three-quarter-length skirts. In the mid-1930’s they came full circle, with floor-length skirts. Even though Lanvin’s designs were not always contemporary, she was an advocate of modernity. She was a designer who didn’t drape or sketch her ideas, and her inspirations came from many art movements.

"It's still raining", fashion plate from La Gazette du Bon Ton, 1915, showing (left to right) tailored suits by Paquin, Lanvin, and Doeuillet and a coat by Paquin.
In 1926, Lanvin added a menswear division, becoming the first couturier that dressed whole families. For the men’s collection, Jeanne hired her nephew Yves and they succeed among ambassadors, members of the Academie Francaise, and aristocrats. Later she launched an interior-design branch, run by designer Armand-Albert Reteau. She created dozens of perfumes, but none of them were commercially successful until she designed Arpège. The perfume was introduced on the 30th birthday of her daughter and it became the most successful perfume. It had the house’s logo on the bottle: Jeanne in a flowing evening dress holding Marguerite’s hands.

The key of her successful career was that she knew her clientele. Jeanne Lanvin was one of the first
designers who created a true empire; her legacy has proven timeless and is one of the oldest surviving
couture houses. In 1946, Jeanne Lanvin died and her daughter, now known as Marie-Blanced, took over the company until 1958 when she died. Now Lanvin is headed by Alber Elbaz. Elbaz is not reinventing the House of Lanvin, he is following and developing the same environment Lanvin did. His sophisticated and delicate designs create a sublime silhouette suitable and flattering for various types of bodies. He is keeping the style of youth, femininity, and beauty, the same as Jeanne Lanvin’s.

Lanvin’s client list includes celebrities as Nicole Kidman, Kate Moss, Chloé Sevigny, Sofia Coppola, First Lady Michelle Obama, Queens of Italy, Roumania and English princesses House of Lanvin has numerous international locations, several in the United States. In 2011 three boutiques were opened in Moscow. They are traditional boutiques making clothes for both mothers and daughters, in honor of Jeanne Lanvin.

Copyright 2013, Mayra Esquivel. Published with the permission of the author. All rights remain with the author.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dramatically Tinted Images from La Belle Époque

These gorgeous and weirdly ethereal images were accomplished using a type of coloration that was briefly popular during the early part of the twentieth century and which sometimes achieved amazing results. We know their vivid shades resulted from early experimentation with color tinting, but we simply can't find any credible information about the process used to create these fantastically tinted images. Over and over again, while researching hand-tinting of vintage photographs, we stumble across the sentiment that color was added to black and white photographs due to a desire to create images that more accurately mimicked life, but these images show that there were often other, more artistic, aesthetics at work.

The first of these images uses shades of blue fading into yellow. This enhances the impression that the woman in the picture is standing just on the border between shadow and illumination. While there are many possible interpretations of the symbolism in standing on the verge of both darkness and light, our favorite is that of standing with one foot in the mundane world and the other in Faerie, and such perception would be very in keeping with the sentiments of the era.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Dramatically Tinted Belle Epoque Image of Young Woman, circa 1905
The following two images seem to be from a single photo shoot and were produced by the same studio as the first, although with a different model. Here, the coloration helps to lend an air of mystery and romance to the young woman, while her filmy gown and scarf, the draped couch upon which she reclines, and the decor, complete with potted palm, all contribute the sense that one has been given a rare glimpse into the Sultan's palace. The rich colors in the two images create very different moods: the seated figure could almost be a mermaid under the sea, while the deep fuchsia lends a sultry sensuality to the image of the reclining woman.

SOLD Dramatically Tinted Belle Epoque Boudoir Image, circa 1905
SOLD Dramatically Tinted Belle Epoque Harem Image, circa 1905
The last of our featured items is a postcard in which Mademoiselle Lo appears in a body stocking and veil. Body stockings were used for a short time at the turn of the century in an attempt to avoid prosecution for violation of decency laws discouraging onstage and photographic nudity, but the intended effect was that the actress appeared to be nude, or very nearly so. In this image, the cloudy sky on the left side of the image, along with Mlle. Lo's arm, face, and a bit of her torso, have been shaded with a deep rose, hinting perhaps of some impending storm or doom. Below the horizon, the shade used is a deep blue, suggestive of water, so that we may imagine that Mlle. Lo has just stepped from the sea onto land. Perchance she portrays some magical being of the sea, come to air herself for a short time before returning to her watery home. Or, maybe she is depicting a character in a play whose reasons for standing on this lonely beach are more tragic, or more playful. We may never know the full story behind this image, but we find its beauty and mystery haunting.

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Mademoiselle Lo, French Artiste Nude en Voile, Fantaisie, circa 1905