Vintage Photos of French Salon Queen Comtesse Greffulhe (1860-1952)

Aristocrat, Élisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe (1860 – 1952) was a renowned beauty and queen of the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris. She was the daughter of Joseph de Riquet de Caraman and his wife Marie de Montesquiou-Fezensac. In 1881 she married the unfaithful, quick-tempered Henri, Count Greffulhe (1848-1932), of the Belgian family of bankers. The comtesse has been described in these words:

“The Comtesse Greffulhe is always beautiful and always elsewhere. But it would be a mistake to think that her life was merely the pursuit of pleasure (…) not only is she beautiful, but she is a lady. Preferring the privacy of her own house in the rue d’Astorg and at Bois-Boudran in the country, the Comtesse Greffulhe never dined out except at the British Embassy. When Edward VII came to Paris, he dined informally at her house. After a restricted youth (…) she set herself to attracting musicians, scholars, physicists, chemists, doctors.”

She regularly entertained the cream of Parisian society at her salon in the rue d’Astorg. The comtesse helped establish the art of James Whistler, and she actively promoted such artists as Auguste Rodin, Antonio de La Gandara and Gustave Moreau.

She was the inspiration for the Duchess of Guermantes in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, she regularly ordered – notably from Worth – sumptuous outfits that highlighted her splendid waist. She was a patron of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets russes, and launched a fashion for greyhound racing.

Fascinated by science, she helped Marie Curie to finance the creation of the Institute of Radium, and Edouard Branly to pursue his researches on radiotransmission and telemechanical systems.

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Comtesse Greffulhe photographed by Otto Wegener (around 1886)

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Comtesse Greffulhe  wearing a ball gown photographed by Otto Wegener (ca. 1887) via

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Comtesse Greffulhe looking sideways photographed by Félix Nadar (1900) via

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Comtesse Greffulhe shows off her bare shoulder and, fashionably semi-concealed, her striking figure in a turn-of-the-century dress via

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In this puzzling image, Comtesse Greffulhe  is seen embracing her own double. The Comtesse wears an elaborate dress with decorated blouson bodice and swirling fabric and a simple dress that could be worn today (1899) via

 

 

Illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson

Charles Dana Gibson (1867 – 1944) was an American graphic artist, best known for his creation of the Gibson Girl, an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent American woman at the turn of the 20th century.

The artist saw his creation as representing the composite of “thousands of American girls.”The Gibson Girl image combined elements of older American images of caucasian female beauty, such as the “fragile lady” and the “voluptuous woman”. From the “fragile lady” she took the basic slender lines, and a sense of respectability. From the “voluptuous woman” she took a large bust and hips, but was not vulgar or lewd, as previous images of women with large busts and hips had been depicted. From this combination emerged the Gibson Girl, who was tall and slender, yet with ample bosom, hips and buttocks. She had an exaggerated S-curve torso shape achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset. Images of her epitomized the late 19th- and early 20th-century Western preoccupation with youthful features and ephemeral beauty. Her neck was thin and her hair piled high upon her head in the contemporary bouffant, pompadour, and chignon (“waterfall of curls”) fashions. The statuesque, narrow-waisted ideal feminine figure was portrayed as being at ease and stylish.

Many models posed for Gibson Girl-style illustrations, including Gibson’s wife, Irene Langhorne who may have been the original model, and was a sister of Viscountess Nancy (Langhorne) Astor. Other models included Evelyn Nesbit. The most famous Gibson Girl was probably the Belgian-American stage actress, Camille Clifford, whose high coiffure and long, elegant gowns that wrapped around her hourglass figure and tightly corseted wasp waist defined the style

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Charles Dana Gibson, The Gibson Girl, Pen and ink on paper, 12.5 x 9.5 in.

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Charles Dana Gibson, A daughter of the south, 1909. Pen and ink, 57 x 40 cm

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Charles Dana Gibson, Well-Dressed Woman, Ink on paper 17 x 12 in.

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Charles Dana Gibson, Sweetest story ever told, 1910. Pen and ink over graphite under drawing ; 57.7 x 43.5 cm

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Charles Dana Gibson pen and ink on paper illustration for Collier’s Weekly; published in the artist’s collection Our Neighbors (1905)

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Charles Dana Gibson, Patience, 1910

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A Collection of Photos featuring Curvy Beauty Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell (1860– 1922) became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.

For many years, Russell was the foremost singer of operettas in America. Her voice, stage presence and beauty were the subject of a great deal of fanfare in the news media, and she was extremely popular with audiences. Actress Marie Dressler observed,

“I can still recall the rush of pure awe that marked her entrance on the stage. And then the thunderous applause that swept from orchestra to gallery, to the very roof.”

When Alexander Graham Bell introduced long distance telephone service on May 8, 1890, Russell’s voice was the first carried over the line.

Russsel had a  flamboyant personal life and was married four times. She married composer Edward Solomon in 1884 and created roles in several of his operas in London, but in 1886 he was arrested for bigamy. Her longest relationship was with Diamond Jim Brady, who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades.

A 1940 film was made about Russell, although it presents a sanitized version of her life.

Lillian Russel via

Lillian Russell via

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Lillian Russell as fortune teller via

A Collection of Photos Featuring Stage Beauty Mabel Love

Mabel Love (1874 – 1953), was a British dancer and stage actress. Love made her stage debut at the age of twelve, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, playing The Rose, in the first stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. She was considered to be one of the great stage beauties of her age, and her career spanned the late Victorian era and Edwardian period.

In March 1889, under the headline “Disappearance of a Burlesque Actress”, The Star newspaper reported that, by then 14-year old, Love had disappeared. It was later reported that she had gone to the Thames Embankment, considering suicide. This publicity served merely to increase the public’s interest in her. When photographer Frank Foulsham had the idea of selling the images of actresses on postcards, Love proved to be a popular subject leading one writer to christen her “the pretty girl of the postcard”. In 1894, Winston Churchill wrote to her asking for a signed photograph.

Over the following 30 years, she starred in a series of burlesques, pantomimes and musical comedies. Among her successes were, as Francoise in La Cigale and as Pepita in Ivan Caryll’s Little Christopher Columbus. Later, she appeared at the Folies Bergère in Paris and in Man and Superman on Broadway. Love retired from the stage in 1918 and, in 1926, she opened a school of dancing in London.

 

NPG x12571; Mabel Love in 'A Modern Don Quixote' by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company

Mabel Love in ‘A Modern Don Quixote’ by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company
albumen cabinet card, 1893

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193897; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193893; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Davidson Brothers

by Bassano Ltd, published by Davidson Brothers, postcard print, 1900s

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Davidson Brothers
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193894; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s via

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193895; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

A Collection of Photos Featuring Edwardian Beauty Lily Elsie

Lily Elsie (1886 – 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, when public entertainment flourished. The nine years during Edward´s reign were to be the height of Lily Elsie’s success on the stage.  Beginning as a child star in the 1890s, Elsie built her reputation in several successful musical comedies before her great success in The Merry Widow in 1907, which the King saw four times. Afterwards, she starred in several more successful operettas and musicals.

Admired for her beauty and charm on stage, Elsie became one of the most frequently photographed beauties of the Edwardian era.

The Chicago Examiner wrote on 1st May 1910:

She is famous above all for two things –
for having been photographed more frequently than any actress ever on a London stage, and for having had more proposals of marriage.  It is said that she has been photographed at least once every week day in the year.  Even then the insatiable demands of the photographic firms were not satisfied.  They could not obtain enough of her photographs to supply the enormous demand.

Lily Elsie

Lily Elsie

Lily Elsie

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Lily Elsie, Postcard, postmarked Birmingham, September, 1909

Captivatingly gorgeous Victorian stage actress Lili Elsie sporting an elegant black ensemble. #Victorian #19th_century #1800s #photograph #antique #vintage #woman #actress #stage #Lili_Elsie

Lily Elsie