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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grete Wolfram, Woman Athlete, circa 1910

At first glance, this photo of a young woman with a large club may look a bit silly to us, but it's actually an iconic image, representing the triumph of a young female athlete in a time when the phrase "female athlete" was seen by many as a contradiction in terms. Beyond that, there is the strong possibility, explained in greater detail in the listing on Etsy, that this young woman went on to gain a higher education, to advocate for the equality of women, and to survive Hitler's concentration camps.

Fraulein Grete Wolfram was a young Austrian woman, who became the German-Austrian women's club swinging champion sometime around 1910. Club swinging, also known as Indian clubs, is a former Olympic competitive event which involved gymnastic, sometimes free form, movement while manipulating (often at high speeds), weighted clubs. This sport is actually making a comeback, and we may someday see it again in the Olympic games!

In the process of researching this card, we came across some very interesting, though tragic, information.

There was a Margarethe Wolfram, who used the shortened name Grete, born in Vienna in 1890. So, the name, geographical location, and approximate age add up well.

Even later in life, after marriage to a Dr. Hans Kernegg, and having herself earned a PhD., or having become a doctor of some kind, she called herself Dr. Margarethe (Grete) Wolfram Kernegg, keeping her earlier name intact, just as someone might who had earned some prominence before marriage and for whom the rite of marriage did not mean the abandonment of individuality.

In the early 1930s, this "Grete" wrote articles for a Sunday newspaper called "Das Wort Der Frau," or "The Woman's Word," "an independent Sunday newspaper for the cultural, social and economic interests of women [offering] practical advice for house, home and kitchen, health, socializing, sports and fashion." This magazine was closely associated with activist women's organizations throughout the world, at a time when women were struggling hard for equality, and quite frankly, it is our feeling that a young woman who became the women's club swinging champion of Austria and Germany, in those days, was already in some respects, in the vanguard of the women's movement. So here we have another point of likely connection.

Dr. Grete Wolfram Kernegg was an Austrian Jew. Her husband was also an Austrian Jew. Dr. Hans Kernegg's name appears in numerous references as being associated with Jewish activist organizations who agitated for Jewish rights against 1930s Nazi policies in Hitler's Germany, (something about which one hears very little!), and Grete Wolfram Kernegg's newspaper, Das Wort der Frau, is also mentioned in articles concerning Hitler's policies and attitudes regarding the rights of women in Europe during this period.

Our research indicates that at some time, probably in the mid to late 1930s, Grete and Hans fled Austria or Germany and settled in Nice, France.

Later in the war, Germany actively occupied that part of France, and as part of their "Jewish policies" arrested, or caused to be arrested, French Jews, and other Jews, who had taken refuge there.

It was in 1944, in the closing days of the war, that Grete and Hans were arrested and deported to Poland, to the death camp at Auschwitz, where Dr. Hans Kernegg (according to Grete's later testimony), was immediately murdered in a gas chamber.

Grete managed to survive the camp, and later emigrated to Australia, where she passed away, in Sidney, in 1981.

We have not yet been able to, and may never, definitively show that these two women are the same person, but no other Grete Wolfram appears in our researches, and it feels very likely that they are one and the same person.

We love what we do here at Red Poulaine. We love the romance, the excitement, and the strange that sometimes surrounds the images we find, research, and exhibit for sale. But we cannot say that we loved this particular experience. To see the pride of success, born of great effort, courage and ability, in this old fashioned and in some ways amusing image of this vital young woman, and to think that as a result of ignorance, greed, hatred and prejudice, she might have suffered so tragically later in life, is terribly unpleasant, but, for us, makes the image all the more meaningful.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Marvelous Maenads

One of our favorite, and most magical, subgenres of "Lovely Lady" postcards has to be that of the Marvelous Maenads. These are somewhat idealized, and presumably toned down, versions of those wild maidens of ancient Greece, who in their worship of Dionysus, the god of wine and sensual abandon, got up to all kinds of mischief. The maenad, as an image, was practically the poster girl of La Belle Époque, expressing that rich, earthy, "joie de vivre," which has come to be seen as so expressive of that era. In our Marvelous Maenad section, we're not all that particular about whether the model is depicted as a woodland sprite, a pagan priestess, or if they're just a couple of Belle Époque chorus girls unwinding after a tough dress rehearsal. The images we list in this section might have been published anytime between the 1890s and the 1930s. Basically, if they're wearing grapes, grapevines, animal skins, or any of the other accoutrements no self-respecting maenad could do without, this is the section they'll end up in. Welcome to the Bacchanal!!! :)

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Maenad in the Morning, Jugendstil Epoche Stage Performer, circa 1903
AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Ileana Leonidoff, Dancer and Silent Film Star, Wears Crown of Bacchus, circa 1920
AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Maenad Peering Through the Trees, circa 1910s/20s
SOLD Carmel Myers with Decorative Grape Headdress
The marvelous maenads featured in this post are just the first of many. We hope that you will be as enchanted with these beauties as we are.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shellhunter365's World of Whimsy and Wonder

Here at Red Poulaine, we always delighted to learn of the artistic ways in which so many of our wonderful customers make use of the cards and photographs we sell. Some of them use the images they buy from us as inspiration (muses, if you will), for writing projects, others in connection with their music, and of course the graphic arts possibilities are endless. One of our customers, shellhunter365 on Etsy, is one of these graphic artists. Her works can be found at La Sirena Antiques and Skatter, both in Santa Cruz, California. As you will see, shellhunter365 has a wonderful eye for magic and whimsy. She uses vintage images, many of which she has purchased from Red Poulaine, as the basis for some of her pieces, and has been kind enough to share with us some of her art, as well as her process:
I use . . . alcohol tints, often mixing them, make a copy of the original and tint that (I like to leave the originals alone; they survived this long without adulteration...), then I apply everything from vintage ribbon, flowers, glitter, even shells around the image which is mounted on mat board, and hang them from more vintage ribbon.
In the side-by-side that follows, we have a before and after shot, showing the first step in the process. The image on the left is a postcard shellhunter365 purchased from us, of Mlle. Santori wearing a remarkable headdress. (You can read more about this image in the original listing in our shop.) The image to the right shows shellhunter365's copy after she had applied her hand-tinting. We love the wonderful earthy tones she used to enhance this image, emphasizing the woodland spirit motif created by the headdress that is the focal point of the image.

Mlle. Santori, before and after hand-tinting by shellhunter365
Here's another side-by-side comparison of an image, showing shellhunter365's tinting, this time of a mermaid from Reutlinger's Les Ondines series:

Les Ondines, before and after hand-tinting by shellhunter365

The following three images are all based on postcards shellhunter365 purchased from our shop, but have yet to receive their decorative frames. Where possible, each is linked back to the original postcard from our shop.

Rena Varty — La Jolie Bohemienne
Elizabeth Firth as Natalie in the Original English Production of the Merry Widow, 1907

Stacia Napierkowska Russian Star of French Silent Film circa 1910s/20s

Of course, shellhunter365 doesn't stop with merely hand-coloring and mounting her artwork. After each piece is mounted, she adds a number of decorative embellishments to complete the work. Following are a few of the pieces she has shared with us:

Cute Flag-Bearer on Rocking Horse
Q is for Queen of the Dancers
Gisèle Gravier in Art Nouveau Egyptian-Inspired Headdress and Necklace

Sea Nymph Asleep in a Clam Shell Cradle

YES! You Are a Moon Goddess

Enchanting Child with Ribbons and Flowers