Christmas Witch (not Befana), 1907
Every January I slap my forehead and vow I will remember to do a post of La Befana next year (La Befana is the Christmas witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on the night of 5 January). Once again I have forgotten to do this, though I remembered that I had forgotten a little earlier than usual. Even still, since I will be away for three weeks (until the second week of January), Befana will have to wait another year.
As you can see, this year I thought I’d wish you “A Merry Xmas & A Happy New Year” with a postcard from Philco (“Philco Series 6021 A”). Philco (aka “Philcom Publishing Co.”) were based at Holborn Place, London but printed their postcards “At Our Works In Prussia.”
They did a long series of photographic postcards of actresses, some tinted (see here), and seem to have used these photographs to create seasonal cards like this one. (See here for another Christmas post card, here for a New Year’s postcard and here for one titled “All Joy to You This Easter.”)
No doubt, if you had all of the Philco postcards all you’d be able to work out who the women are in this card. That is what this collector has been able to do by concentrating on a single actress: the gorgeous Maude Fealy. Since I am not a Philco collector of any description, I can’t identify our witch.
I can tell you, however, that the artist who has painted her neck-to-toe outfit has created a neo-medieval ensemble, complete with a late 15th century Burgundian hennin and veil (the pointed form of this cone-shaped headdress). The magical and astronomical symbols on her dress and on her long cape recall a wizard’s outfit, and “the hennin forms part of the costume of the stereotypical fairy tale princess”—so the outfit is a little confused in it’s design.
Despite the fact that our shapely witch is not on her broom—either astride it, or riding side-saddle—but simply pressing the broom to her side, she is flying over the rooftops with her entourage resting on her cape. And despite the incongruity of a witch doing all this while wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year—rather than a Happy Halloween—it is a witch who is doing this!