One way to approach the Reutlinger postcards is from the perspective of the models (really, celebrities) featured on the cards, many or most of whom appear to have been well known singers, dancers, and actresses of the day.
It is necessary to acknowledge that the objectification inherent these types of postcards implicates a whole range of complex issues around the representation of women in mass media. All of my research so far suggests that each of these unconventional women led extraordinary, but difficult lives. The following comments by Michael D. Carval, author of the fantastic Cléo de Mérode and the Rise of Modern Celbrity Culture, are equally applicable to any of the celebrities on this page: “So much about Mérode’s story anticipates the paradoxical place of celebrated feminine beauty within our mass visual culture , between commodification and creative self-fashioning, exploitation and and empowerment.”
I will over time work on adding information and cards from my collection for particular models on this page. This will necessarily be a work in progress. Click on any of the images to scroll through all of the images in each set.
Cléo de Mérode, born in Paris, who was a famous ballet dancer, who also went on to dance at the the Folies Bergère. She has been called “the first modern icon.” Her wikipedia page and this Red List page has more information and images, but the definitive source for information about her life and significance is Carval’s book, referenced above. Here is an impressive online journal piece called “Cléo de Mérode’s Postcard Stardom.” This link appears to have film footage of her dancing (as well as Caroline Otero — see below).
Another popular model, Lina Cavalieri, was born North of Rome and came to Paris and sang in music halls and later in opera. Her wikipedia page has more information and images. Also, I recently discovered via the MessyNessy Chic blog that Cavalieri was the model for Piero Fornasetti’s famous plate series ‘Tema e Variazioni’. Check out the whole story there; the blog post also has great biographical information about Cavalieri.
Carolina Otero (universally known as “La Belle Otéro”) is one of the most famous personalities featured on the Reutlinger postcards. Born in Galicia in 1868, there is a lot of information about her and more images on her Wikipedia page and this Red List page, and this link that has film footage of her dancing. This link appears to have a recording of her singing. It was once said of her that her extraordinarily dark black eyes were so captivating that they were “of such intensity that it was impossible not to be detained before them.” Here are a few cards from my collection featuring La Belle Otero:
Lucie (or Lucy) Gerard was born in Lyon in 1872. According to her Wikipedia page, she was a stage actress and later appeared in silent films (billed as Lucy Mareil). There is also an informative entry on Gerard on the blog “Red Poulaine’s Musings.”
Here is a link to a page of Gerard photos in an album of Reutlinger photographs in the digital library Gallica.
I love to peep into this long gone world.
The clothes, the makeup and hairstyles
all so different to today.
Well done for keeping this wonderful collection together.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the collection. Thanks for your comment!
Fantastic, This set of pictures is incredible! Thank you. And the ‘blonde’ Cavalieri, 1904, with “6º Thêatre Florence” is one of the most beatiful pictures that I’ve seen. Who doesnt ‘fall in love’ at first sight?
Congratulations for your initiative and great collection! Wonderful postcards, masterpieces, to know and enjoy fantastic past times…