Friday, April 30, 2010

Naples: Maritime Station and Vesuvius - early 1950s

Earlier this month the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and the subsequent cloud of ash which drifted across the airspace of much of Europe brought international air travel, quite literally, to a stand still. History, of course, is full of famous volcanic eruptions, but that of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the death of between 10,000 and 25,000 people, is one of the best known in the entire world. Extraordinarily, the lost city of Pompeii was rediscovered in the 16th century and the excavated city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is now a window through time to the interrupted lives of its inhabitants who perished under the volcanic ash so long ago.

One of most worrying things about Mount Vesuvius is that it sits on the Bay of Naples and is only 6 miles east of Naples itself, a densely populated city. Potentially, over 3 million people might be affected if Mount Vesuvius blew her top again! Thankfully, there have been no eruptions since 1944, but this 1950s real photograph postcard of the Maritime Station of Naples has been doctored to show Vesuvius billowing smoke in the background! The station itself was variously built and rebuilt from 1933 to 1946, starting first with works by the Fascist regime, which were completely destroyed during war time bombing, until the new Italian administration during post-war reconstruction decided to rebuild it exactly as it had been before.

This scalloped edge postcard is uncirculated, but from the look of the steamships and cars I'm guessing that it was issued during the early 1950s. It was printed by a local Neapolitan firm called Renza situated on Via Maddalena.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, April 23, 2010

Equestrian statue of Charles IV 'El Caballito' - 1921

This vintage Mexican postcard from 1921 features the equestrian statue of Charles IV by sculptor Manuel Tolsá in Mexico City. Whilst today the monumental bronze known as El Caballito takes pride of place in front of The National Art Museum on Plaza Manuel Tolsá, it has been situated in various locations across the city since its inauguration in December 1803 - on occasions it even risked destruction when anti-Hispanic sentiments were running at their highest. Luckily, Lucas Alamán was able to persuade Guadalupe Victoria, the first President of Mexico, that rather than melting down the statue, it should be preserved because of its artistic merits.

El Caballito (Yellow Horse)
Originally uploaded by RightIndex
In 1852, the statue was moved from the courtyard of the ancient university where it had been protected from potential attacks, to the intersection of Paseo de la Reforma and Paseo de Bucareli, where this time it was protected by railings. This postcard would seem to show the statue in that very position as it is clearly a wide intersection, although a quick peek at Google maps today shows a dramatically different picture with glass skyscrapers. The people of Mexico City must have grown used to the presence of an equestrian statue in that location, however, for today in its place there now stands another monumental sculpture – a bright yellow metallic horse's head by renowned Mexican artist Sebastián. This sculpture is also known as El Caballito (Little Horse).

The real photograph postcard was issued by CIF, possibly using stock from another company - the name of the postcard and the logo have been handwritten rather crudely and a previous, albeit similar title, is still visible. The postage stamp was issued in 1917 and features a portrait of Mexican revolutionary Venustiano Carranza who was President of Mexico from 1917 until his death by assassination in 1920, the year before this card was posted to Rome, Italy. A great piece of history!

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tuberosa - 1908

Yesterday afternoon I went for a long, aimless walk in Rome, taking side streets that I don't usually follow and generally enjoying the gorgeous sunshine of a beautiful spring day. As it happens, my wander took me to a second-hand book shop that I didn't know and which also had a small stall of vintage postcards set-up outside. I discovered this stunning real photograph flower postcard of a white Poliamtha Tuberosa and thought it would be a perfect image to share right away. It reminds very much of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of flowers...

I assume that it was printed in France, although the card was written and probably hand delivered - if it ever actually reached its destination at all - in Rome, Italy. It is addressed locally to a certain Amalia M. Rocca on Via Conte Verde, with Rome indicated merely as "Città" (city), but there is no sign of there having ever been a postage stamp. It appears to be a bromide print judging by the overall matte surface with some metallic-looking tarnishing towards the edges of the postcard.

If you look very carefully in the bottom left hand corner on the front of the card there is a tiny publisher's logo - NRM above a coat of arms - although I've been unable to discover anything more about them.

Beth's postcard blog - The Best Hearts are Crunchy - has a floral theme too for Postcard Friendship Friday this week!

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jean Harlow - 1936

Long before Madonna and even before the legendary Marilyn Monroe, there was Jean Harlow...the original Blonde Bombshell! Sexy and funny too, she quickly became a Hollywood superstar in the 1930s and the jewel in MGM's crown. I remember my grandmother telling me about her when I was a child - in particular, she told me how shocked she had been on hearing the news of her sudden death. In fact, this gorgeous uncirculated vintage movie star postcard was issued in 1936, only a year before Harlow died at the very height of her fame aged 26. Dozens of movie roles, a troubled childhood followed by three marriages, combined with a sudden, tragic demise have all contributed to make her an archetypal Hollywood legend. Modern audiences were reminded of her most recently when Gwen Stefani portrayed her, albeit briefly, in Martin Scorsese's 2004 biopic The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.

This Italian postcard carries the name of the Florence-based postcard company Ballerini & Frattini (active from 1912 to the present day) who also distributed the real photo German-printed Ross Verlag film star postcards in Italy.

As was often the case during the dark days of Italian Fascism, the date on the back of the card uses Roman numerals and is printed as "Anno XIV" rather than "1936". It seems incredible now, but Mussolini seriously attempted to replace the Anno Domini system in those years and instead used Roman numerals with year "I" indicating the establishment of the Fascist government in 1922, making 1936 in this particular case, year XIV.

Here's a great montage of images of Jean Harlow. Click here to go to YouTube or watch below:

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tripoli, Libya – 1930s

I should come clean right away with this postcard: I'm guessing somewhat about the date here! This uncirculated, divided back Libyan postcard provides very few clues to helping us date it. It was published by a company named as “Haggiag” in small print on the reverse of the card. I assume that this refers to the publishers Scialom Haggiag who were based in Tripoli, Libya and from other examples I've found on the Internet, seem to have been active through the 1920s until at least the early 1930s.

Perhaps the biggest clue, however, comes from the fact that this is an Italian – Libyan postcard, with the description of the spring in the oasis written in Italian. Libya became an Italian colony after suffering terribly at the hands of Mussolini - thousands died, not only in warfare, but also from disease and starvation before Libya was fully pacified in 1934. When Mussolini made his state visit in 1937 he bizarrely made himself "protector of Islam" and Italians were encouraged to emigrate to the colony in large numbers. Indeed, by 1939 over 12% of the total population of Libya were Italian. So once again, there's a darker tale behind what looks superficially like a quaint ethnic postcard.

The postcard seems to have been printed cheaply on thin card although the colour washes look hand painted if albeit rather crude and splotchy in their application. My personal attraction to this card initially was that it featured one of my favourite animals - a camel!