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