Isoline, the Sensational, Musical Sorceress, ca. 1900
I have six postcards of the beautiful Isoline, a real-life French Sorceress or Witch. I have looked everywhere I can think of for more information about Isoline and can find nothing. So, as usual, I can do nothing but describe what I have.
The series of postcards seems to start with this one, in which Isoline is among the “Sensational Act[s]” at a carnival or circus. As you can see above, the card has no less than four captions. The main one is: “Isoline Le Voyante Musicienne” [Isoline The Musical Visionary]. Isoline is depicted in a stunning pearl choker. In the background are two scenes from her act.
The first scene shows a blindfolded Isoline on stage, playing the guitar and singing (she is surrounded by a cloud of musical notes), while a presenter stands in the isle, hailing her and interacting with the audience.
It seems that Isoline’s “sensational act” involved her singing and telling fortunes (or, as one of her later cards puts it, revealing one’s “Destinée; Consils sur Héritages, Procès, Successions, Mariages, etc.” [Destiny; Inheritance, Lawsuits, Successions, Marriages, etc.]). Another possibility is that she relayed the visions that she had by singing them to the audience.
The second scene shows Isoline, still blindfolded, meeting individuals from the audience on stage. She takes each man’s hand in turn, relating her visions.
The presenter stands in the background in the isle. Having called members of the audience up on stage, I presume he is now offering a running commentary for the benefit of the audience.
Remember folks, this is in the days before microphones. Isoline’s singing may be heard by the whole audience, but it required a strong, loud—a stentorian—speaking voice to be heard throughout such a large auditorium. Thus the man among the audience. It is not hard to imaging his patter in the first scene: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you (pause and flourish; pointing dramatically at the stage, where a singing Isoline is revealed by the rising curtain) the SENSATIONAL ISOLINE!” Cue wild applause etc.
Anyway, the rest of the captions read:
Porte-Bonheur de la Sorcière ‘Isoline’ … Isoline, 42 bis, Avenue de Suffren, Paris … Partout où je pénètrerai, j’y apporterai le Bonheur et la Prosperite.
[Talisman of the Witch ‘Isoline’ … Isoline, 42B, Avenue de Suffren, Paris … Everywhere where I go, I will bring Happiness and Prosperity.]
This talismanic postcard was “Imp.” (i.e., printed by) “G. Dervois, 91, rue Ganterie, Rouen”; it has an undivided back and probably dates to about 1900. The mustachioed men on stage and Isoline’s choker look slightly earlier, so it is possible that the card is as early as 1895, but until I find one that has been posted I can only guess.
The address on the card, 42B Avenue de Suffren in Paris, is the place where Isoline could be privately consulted. Next week I will post the rest of these cards and you will see that Isoline must have been very successful, because she continued to advertise her rooms on the Avenue de Suffren for some time.