Hurrah! For almost two years we have striven to complete this set of four cards, searching through many, many, collections on a regular basis, with condition being the primary obstacle, and then a short time ago, we managed to gather the most difficult of the quartette, the Cleo de Merode Queen of Hearts, into the fold.
Finally, the four glamorous artistes who in many ways best represent the theatrical romance of the Belle Epoque era are together in our shop. This little set has been our "Maltese Falcon" for some time now, and it gives us great pleasure to share them with you :)
First, Cleo De Merode, clearly the most beloved today of all the Belle Epoque artistes, pictured as the Queen of Hearts. How could it be otherwise?
Our personal favorite, The Queen of Clubs, Mlle. Saharet (born Clarissa, or Clarise, Rose Campbell), can-can dancer extraordinaire, who, if the stories we read are true, began her stage career while little more than a child, along the rough and tumble Barbary Coast of San Francisco, California.
The Queen of Diamonds, Signorina Lina Cavalieri, was for very good reason hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world, but diamonds were her undoing, or so the story goes, as she was tragically killed in an allied bombing raid during WWII, while attempting to rescue her prized jewels from her palatial residence.
Finally, La Belle Otero. The Queen of Spades indeed. The suit of spades corresponds to that of swords in the tarot deck, often considered the most ill omen-ed of the four suits. La Senorita Otero invented a romantic past to mask a humble and tragic childhood. Her path to great success was certainly not an easy one. Probably the most notorious of the four ladies, she is the only one numbered as one of les Grandes Trois, or les Grandes Horizontales, the three great courtesans of the period. And speaking of swords, legend has it that more than a few men lost their lives in duels, or suicide, for want of her love.
Please examine these cards carefully. Note their condition. With the exception of some very minor age spotting on the reverse sides, these are as close to being in pristine condition as any we have found. Our fantasy is that some enthusiastic collector will mount them in a sumptuously gilded frame, behind some bevel cut matte board and heavy glass, so that as a set, they are given their due. We were tempted to do this ourselves, and then to offer them up in that state, but thought that it was probably better to let whoever gets them make their own choices.
As you can see, we are placing a premium value on these four ladies, but we are, frankly, in no hurry to part with them, because when they're gone, we'll have to begin that long, long search, all over again :)