Archive for the Postcard Category

Gabrielle Ray, Christmas Witch, 1907

Posted in 00s, Photograph, Postcard, SFW on 24 December 2011 by redwitch1

Apparently, I needed a break. So I took one. “Am taking one” I should say, ’cause I haven’t finished being broken, or breaking, or taking a break, or whatever. But I wanted to start the new year (NB to any non-pagans out there, the real new year has already started) with a pretty witch xmas card of the delightful Gabrielle Ray (1883–1973), “one of the most photographed women in the world” (according to Wikipedia).

Ray performed at leading West End venues, becoming famous across Europe for her youthful beauty and her skill as a dancer. As the bio. on this site explains, “She had a graceful fluidity coupled with an acrobatic prowess that made her dancing nothing less than sensational.” In 1907, Ray played “Frou Frou” in George Edwardes’ adaptation of The Merry Widow, which ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. Ray’s dance number, complete with handstands and high kicks, performed on a table at Maxim’s held head high by four men, was a show stopper. Probably a heart-stopper too.

This photo is slightly earlier: it is one of a series of photos of Ray as “So-Hie” in the “Chinese” comic opera, See-See at the 
Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, 20 June 1906.
 The photograph has been altered by the Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd of London, probably in 1907, for issue in its Rotary Photographic Series. You can see others in this series, and find lots of information about Ray, here.

Sadly, as Ray’s career waned “a damaging combination of depression and alchoholism brought about a total breakdown in health”; in 1936 she suffered a total nervous breakdown which led to her remaining institutionalized in a mental hospital for nearly forty years! What an end for a woman with so much going for her.

And with this terrible warning before all of us I hope you’ll forgive me for continuing my break a little longer. I will start posting regularly towards the end of (my) summer. Adieu.

Welcome to the Walpurgishalle, 1901

Posted in 00s, 10s, Brocken, chromolithograph, Postcard, SFW on 30 April 2011 by redwitch1

Here is something special for Walpurgisnacht. As I wrote here (five years ago!):

Walpurgisnacht is celebrated in Germany on 30 April (Beltane or May Eve). On this night witches are thought to fly to a plateau on Brocken Mountain deep in the Harz Mountains … The plateau is known as the Hexentanzplatz, the witches’ dancing place … it is here that Goethe set the witches’ sabbat in his Faust (1808, 1832). By the turn of the century a thriving tourist industry had prompted the publication of numerous witch-themed postcards.

You will find these postcards here, here, here and here. Later in 2006 I explained that, “By the 1920s, another tourist gimick was added: Brocken ‘money’ (Brocken or Thale Notgeld).” You will find images of Brocken money here and here.

[Walpurgishalle, 1901 (postcard no. 7)]

And now I can add the Walpurgis Hall (Walpurgishalle), which was built at the Hexentanzplatz by the Berlin architect Bernhard Sehring in old-Germanic style in 1901. Carved across the front of the building above the doorway to the Walpurgishalle is a frieze. The head of Wodan crowns the pediment, flanked by the Ravens Hudin and Munin (which symbolize his thoughts and memories) and the wolves and Gari Freki, who are his guards and agents.

[Walpurgishalle, 1910]

Today the Walpurgishalle is a museum. Hermann Hendrich (1854–1931) created five large paintings for the interior of the hall showing scenes from the Goethe’s Faust. These are

[1] Irrlichtertanz (Erring light dance) [postcard no. 3]
[2] Mammonshöhle (Mammon’s Cavern) [postcard no. 5]
[3] Hexentanz (witch dance) [postcard no. 6]
[4] Windsbraut (wind bride) [postcard no. 4]
[5] Gretchenerscheinung or Gretchentragödie (Tragedy of Gretchen) [postcard no. 3]

[Irrlichtertanz (postcard no. 2)]
[Gretchenerscheinung (postcard no. 3)]
[Windsbraut (postcard no. 4)]
[Mammonshöhle (postcard no. 5)]
[Hexentanz (postcard no. 6)]

Reproductions of these paintings were published in a book (which I don’t have) and a series of postcards (which were hugely popular, and which I do have). Three more images appear in the postcard series:

[6] “Hexenfahrt” (witch journey) [postcard no. 1]
[7] Walpurgishalle—Hexentanzplatz [postcard no. 7]
[8] “Sternenreigen” (star dance [lit. roundelay]) [postcard no. 8]

[Hexenfahrt (postcard no. 1)]
[Sternenreigen (postcard no. 8)]

For an insight into the paintings, which can be seen much more clearly in the photos by Raymond Faure. You will find a page of his excellent photos of the Walpurgishalle here. This panorama below might help orient you.

[Panorama of the interior of the Walpurgishalle]

Puck and the Witch, 1912

Posted in 10s, Halloween, Lithograph, Postcard on 27 March 2011 by redwitch1

Here is yet another sepia lithographic postcard from The Pink of Perfection series. Not only is it from the same series as last week’s card (“Series 152″), the artwork on this card also contains a Gibson Art Company copyright statement (“©1912 C. R. Gibson”), though it was published under license by the Fairman Company of New York.

The caption on this card reads

Hallowe’en
Puck, the Sprite,
Weaves to night,
Fortunes bright.

Despite the caption, Puck is not in evidence. We have, instead, another pretty witch, with full cheeks, pale skin and hair, in a silken black witch’s hat, holding a JOL. Our winsome witch holds her JOL with all but the little finger of her right hand, which is held aloft. The gesture is subtle (and difficult to see on this card) but full of meaning—at least it is in Australia where the Roads and Traffic Authority used it in an anti-speeding campaign.

How? Well a woman wiggles her little finger at a driver to imply he has a small penis (see this news item here, concerning a road-rage incident it provoked, but not here, the Wikipedia page for single hand gestures!) So, perhaps our witch is saying something about Puck’s penis.**

Moving right along. This card appears to be from the same collection as the one I posted last week, and so it also has a destination or sales area marked on it: “Denmark, No. 4.” Since the one from last week was a suburb of New York I am not quite sure what to make of this.

**I promise that I didn’t set out to get the phrases “Pink of Perfection” and “Puck’s penis” in the same post. Honest.

C. R. Gibson Witch, 1912

Posted in 10s, Halloween, Lithograph, Postcard, SFW on 19 March 2011 by redwitch1

Here is another sepia lithographic postcard published by the Fairman Company of New York in The Pink of Perfection series, in this case from Series 152. As I said a few weeks back (here), Fairman were licensed to print Gibson Art Company designs, and this is one of them. As you can see, painted into the folds of the cape is “©1912 C. R. Gibson.”

In this Gibson design we have a pretty witch, with full cheeks and pale skin, smiling at her reflection in the mirror. (Presumably, when this witch asked the magic mirror on the wall who was the fairest of them all, she got the answer she expected!) The caption reads:

Hallowe’en.
List! You are bid
By fairy and sprite
To find what’s hid
On All Hallow night

Which sounds like a treasure hunt, but perhaps what is hid(den), has been hidden in the mirror—like the philosopher’s stone in The Mirror of Erised.

And if this were the Mirror of Erised, it might explain both why the witch is so gorgeous and why she is so happy. But I digress. Check out the broom-shaped hat-pin thing tucked into her hat-band.

Back in February I did a post of a witch with the same sort of broom-shaped hat-pin (here). I’ve got to get me a hat-pin like this! [see update below]

* * * * *

BTW: This card was part of a large collection that I have mentioned a few times. Doing some digging recently I discovered this entry archived online for a “Group of 7 Halloween postcards … Each card has a punch hole near top. 5 of the 7 has [a] name and number written on back. We think these were destination or sale[s] areas? Cards have all been trimmed on top edge, possibly when they were cut from manufacturing sheet.” This isn’t the way I bought this card, but it—and a few others—have a hole punched into them and a location written on the back, so I gather that the person who bought this lot, broke the cards up and sold them separately.

As you can see, the note on this card reads “Fort Schuyler / No. 4″. Fort Schuyler is in the Bronx in New York. So, perhaps, this card was hocked around the Bronx by salesman no. 4 in 1912.

[UPDATE 2 August 2011: See here for the third example I have of a broom-shaped hat-pin (including an image of all three hat pins together)]

Mystic Witch, 1912

Posted in 10s, Halloween, Lithograph, Postcard, SFW on 5 March 2011 by redwitch1

This sepia lithographic postcard appeared in “Series 153″ published by the Fairman Company of New York. It is stamped with their logo which reads “The [flower] of Pink Perfection. Regd The Fairman Co. N.Y.” (if you read strictly left-to-right) or “The Pink of Perfection …” (if you read one side of the flower-logo and then the other), which makes more sense.

According to Mashburn, many of the designs that were used by the Fairman Company are the same as those used by the Gibson Art Company, but I have only see this one—and the cards I will be posting from “Series 152″—with Pink of Perfection logos. (Fantasy Postcards: A Comprehensive Reference (1996), 237, 239.) BTW The logo used on the previous series (R) was similar, but not identical, to the one on this card (L), as you can see above.

This card was in the same fabulous collection as the one I posted last week. The seller claims that the artist is Kathryn Elliott and that this is one of a seven card set. Although there is a hint of a signature beneath the really cool owl (below), I can “neither confirm nor deny” that it is the signature of Kathryn Elliott!

If it is Elliott—and Elliott was one of The Fairman Co. stable of artists—she was certainly gifted. The monochrome shading is subtle but hugely effective. Look at the face of the witch and the glowing eyes of her familiar!

The caption for the card reads:

The black cat wears its mystic ring,
The witch bat spreads its fearsome wing,
The goblins weirdly chant and sing,
On HALLOWE’EN.

I am not sure how a cat wears a “mystic ring”—unless the mystic ring is the crescent moon that surrounds both the cat and the witch. The “witch bat” is pretty cure rather than “fearsome,” and there is not much evidence of goblins weirdly chanting. Still, the whole poem has a lovely rhythm and the witch is both elegant and beautiful, so I am not complaining!

[And yes, I realise that the witch isn't described as "mystic" on this card, but (1) after 353 posts it is difficult to come up with new post-titles and (2) it is my blog so I can do whatever I want! Just saying.]

Witches, Old Style and New, 1913

Posted in 10s, chromolithograph, Halloween, Postcard, SFW on 27 February 2011 by redwitch1

This is one of a group of postcards that nearly bankrupted me late last year. But what could I do? Like the artwork of Samuel L. Schmucker, the postcards created by Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1865–1934) are some of the most sought-after Halloween collectors’ items. (According to J. L. Mashburn, it is one of her cards that has the highest value of all Halloween postcard. Fantasy Postcards: A Comprehensive Reference (1996), 235) And, although her cards featured in many works on Halloween collectibles, and many collector’s guides wax lyrical about them, I am assuming many of the readers of my blog haven’t seen this one because it does not feature a child—her signature composition element.

These top-end cards do not come up for sale very often, and almost never in this sort of condition. Fortunately for me, it appeared as part of a huge collection that only nearly bankrupted me—because I was only interested in sexy witch cards, and had many of these already—whereas the sale had clearly already bankrupted everyone else. In other words, everyone else blew their dough at the start of the sale, I paced myself and got almost everything I wanted. And I got them at reasonable prices.

This card is one of six in the “Series No. 4439″ published by International Art Publishing Co.” of New–York and Berlin (for one of the others in the series, see here). It was printed in Germany of course on one of the finest chromolithographic presses. Ellen Clapsaddle’s artwork is rendered in colour in near-perfect benday tints (even more perfect than this one). Clapsaddle spent years in Germany working directly and closely with the German engravers, and her expertise shows in this card.

This composition is a study in contrasts. Depicted are two women. The caption reads: “For Hallowe’en. ‘Old Style and New'” On the left—as you see at the top of this post—we have a classic hag-witch. Classic, from the tip of her pointed black hat to the underside of her silver-buckled old-style shoes. She has a hooked nose, long grey woolen dress and white cotton apron, a red cape with a wide white collar, a black cauldron and a black cat. All she is missing is a wand, but perhaps she favours potions over incantations.

On the right we have a beautiful young witch, fashionably dressed in blue silk gown, edged in white fur. She has a ruffle and muff, a dark blue, felt cloche hat with red ostrich plumes, and short curly hair—though not bobbed. This style of fitted, bell-shaped hat was first founded in 1908, but didn’t really become popular until the 1920s. So, in 1913, it was very avant-garde!

(According to Wikipedia, different styles of ribbons offered coded messages about the wearer: a knot signaled a girl was married or betrothed, a flamboyant bow that she was single and interested in mingling. It is not clear what two, erect and red, ostrich plumes might mean, except, perhaps, “watch out”!)

Note: this is not an example of “the hag is a hottie,” like my card from last week, because in this case we do not have a hottie pretending to be a hag. That is, we do not have a pretty witch wearing a hag mask, or a pretty young women dressed as a witch, with a hag mask on hand, but not being worn.

In the examples I gave last week, the artist couldn’t let go of the idea that a witch must be a hag, so they do a striptease-style “reveal”—something along the lines of “beneath this hideous exterior is a gorgeous young woman. You may be disgusted now, but wait until I get her mask/clothes off.”

Of course, the reverse of this pornotopic fantasy is the ancient fear that the “beneath this gorgeous exterior is a hideous old woman.” So, “the hag is a hottie” isn’t only artistic conservatism (I have to show the mask to you or you won’t know that this hottie is a witch, because a sexy witch is so hard for you to imagine), but I think that is part of it.

In this composition the artist juxtaposes and equates a hag and a hottie. That is, Ellen Clapsaddle is saying, this pretty young woman of today is a witch. Her arts of allure are of precisely the same order as the magic of this woman from yesteryear. The cloche hat and red ostrich plumes of the fashionably-dressed young woman are as powerful and as useful for creating magic as the cauldron—and perhaps the cat—of the old woman etc etc. Of course, I may be over thinking it but hey, that is my job!

A Jolly Good Witch, 1922

Posted in 20s, chromolithograph, Halloween, Postcard, SFW on 21 February 2011 by redwitch1

The caption on this “Halloween Greetings” postcard is “Wishing you a jolly good time.” There is no publisher credited on the verso, just a series number (“Halloween Series No. 42″) and the statement “Made in U.S.A.”—which is likely to be untrue. J. L. Mashburn estimates that “at least ninety percent of all Halloween cards and almost all of the 1900–1915 era, were printed in Germany by the great German lithographers, and were done exclusively for the American trade” (Fantasy Postcards: A Comprehensive Reference (1996), 235).

A couple of specialists claim that this card was printed by E. Nash Co. of New York, but as I have explained previously, Nash was only in business from 1908–10 and “since Nash cards are highly sought after and expensive, dealers have a vested interest in attributing anonymous cards to Nash, even ones postmarked over a decade later!” The seller of this card went further and claimed that that the art is a “Schmucker-style lady-witch”—which rivals Arnie’s English-is-not-my-first-language effort: “Don’t be economic girlie men.”

What I can tell you is that Thelma posted this card from Wolfeboro, NH to Mr P. Nelson in East Wolfeboro on the afternoon of 30 October 1922. I can also tell you that Thelma had excellent taste in halloween postcards, because—as you can see—the vignette on this card is stunning.

One thing to note about the artwork is the broom-shaped hat-pin thing tucked into the hat-band. I have seen this in a few places now, but it seems that I have not published any of them yet, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: this is regular theme in witchy images! [see update below]

Regular visitors to this blog will, however, have seen the beauty-with-a-hag-mask theme before (or, as I like to think of it, the “OMG the hag is a hottie” theme). Two of the best examples of this are this one from 1949, where a woman, on her way to a Halloween fancy dress ball, has a hag mask hanging on her wrist, and this stunner from 1964, depicting a naked witch, bathing in her cauldron, who has taken off and hung up her hag mask—along with the rest of her clothes.

* * * * *

Because I was so taken with this image, I photoshopped the caption away and re-oriented the image. I am not sure why I do these things, some images just cry out for it …

[UPDATE 2 August 2011: I have now posted these. See here and here (which includes an image of all three broom-shaped hat-pins together)]

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