|SOLD Wood Nymph at the Well|
|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|
|AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE Maenad Peering Through the Trees, circa 1910s/20s|
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|
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.