Friday, June 28, 2013

Geisha playing traditional Japanese musical instruments – early 1900s

Vintage postcards are a wonderful record of past traditions, clothing and lifestyles and this Japanese card from the early 1900s is a perfect example. It pictures two geisha playing Japanese instruments – the girl in the blue kimono is playing the shamisen, a three-string lute with a fretless fingerboard, whilst the other is playing a koto, the national instrument of Japan and one of the traditional instruments played by geisha. During the previous century the traditional woodblock print had been the most popular medium for contemporary Japanese images, but by the early years of the twentieth century millions of postcards were produced for Japanese and foreign collectors, featuring images that recorded the rapidly changing Japanese society. Postcard collection in the country enjoyed enormous popularity during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905, when the government issued and sold picture postcards to promote the war effort.

I found this lovely example of a hand-tinted collotype postcard on a Roman market stall recently. The card is uncirculated, so cannot be precisely dated, but the undivided back, and vignetted image with space for a message on the front of the card, rather than the back, puts it sometime between 1900 when a revision of the postal act allowed private (non-governmental) postcards to be published, and 1907 when the first divided back postcards (allowing for both address and message on the reverse of the card) were introduced in Japan.

Reverse of postcard
Japan had joined the Universal Postal Union (Union postale universelle) in 1877 and this postcard continues to include the UPU information on the reverse of the card in Japanese. Reading from right to left: Bankoku yūbin kumiai hagaki, literally, all countries (universelle = bankoku) postal (postale = yūbin) union (union = kumiai) card (carte = hagaki). Huge thanks to my email friend Gaye Rowley, who lives in Japan, for the translation of the Japanese inscription.

Whilst researching this post I came across this video of the instruments in use (or or click here to watch on YouTube).

Check out the Vintage Postcard Store for more Geisha postcards

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, June 21, 2013

Nansen's Fram Expedition by Meissner & Buch – issued 1898, posted 1902

Summer has well and truly arrived here in Rome, with the solstice today bringing sizzling temperatures. So rather perversely I thought I'd share a vintage polar exploration postcard today for Postcard Friendship Friday! It's another stunning undivided back artist signed postcard printed using the chromolithographic method, published by Meissner & Buch. It was posted to Arenzano in Italy in 1902 and carries the handwritten date and message “Remembrance” on the front, although the postcard was actually part of a series issued several years earlier in 1898 to celebrate Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen's 1893–1896 attempt to reach the geographical North Pole. Nansen had planned to harness the natural east–west current of the Arctic Ocean aboard the three masted schooner the Fram, by allowing her to freeze into the pack ice, and then drift towards the Pole. After 18 months Nansen tired of waiting and headed out on foot towards the Pole, falling short of his destination but setting a northern latitude record for the times. The Fram would later be used during another Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's successful South Pole expedition and is today preserved in the Fram Museum in Oslo. Nansen went onto to become a humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Meissner & Buch were prolific publishers of extremely fine quality postcards from 1876 through to 1914, operating in Leipzig, Germany (the heart of the postcard industry prior to the First World War). There is no copyright information on the reverse of the card – instead, the publisher's name is printed along the front right hand edge of the card. The inscription reads: Meissner & Buch, Leipzig. Künstler-Postkarten Serie 1016 Gesetzl, geschützt - Meissner & Leipzig. Artists Postcards Series 1016 Copyrighted design.

The title of the series is printed along the left hand edge: Aus “NANSEN In Nacht und Eis” - From “NANSEN, In Night and Ice”. There were twelve postcards in all with artwork by A. Goldfeld, who has signed the card, and this image is labelled “Fram” Im Ewigen Eise, 1894 - “Fram” In the Perpetual Ice, 1894.

Detail of intermingled dots of colour
The detailing on this card is absolutely gorgeous – optical colour mixing by intermingling dots of colour has been used to create the subtleties in the sky, clouds and ice, recalling the pointillist technique which had been introduced only a decade earlier.

I am thrilled by my market stall discovery and now want to collect the entire set!

Check out the Vintage Postcard Store for more vintage expedition postcards

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, June 14, 2013

Pioneer aviation and trick photography postcard – early 1910s

Another spectacular Roman market stall find this week. I'm no fan of flying, but perversely am fascinated by the early years of flight, so this celebration of pioneer aviation caught my eye right away. This beautiful, hand-tinted, real photograph vintage postcard features another stock favourite from the golden age of postcard production too – trick photography. I've actually seen versions of this particular card online with the same monoplane and landscape, but with different “pilots” - romantic couples, young men courting a sweetheart, and of course, as with our card here, children.

On 25 July 1909 French aviator, inventor and engineer Louis Blériot took up the challenge set by the British newspaper the Daily Mail and became the first person to fly across the English Channel in a heavier than air aircraft, scooping the £1000 prize! Blériot had built a series of mono and biplanes in previous years, but it was the Channel-crossing Blériot XI that history remembers.

The aircraft featured on this postcard is certainly very reminiscent of the Blériot monoplane, with its light, open framework, propeller, large bicycle wheels, and even the system of pulleys and cables on the wings. All that's missing is the cockpit – instead the androgynous little girl or boy stands in a basket of flowers with the greeting “Un Bonjour” printed to the right.

The postcard was published by Velouté, with the series number 739, and is postally used with the stamp on the front, rather than reverse of the card. Unfortunately the postmark is too blurred to be legible. The stamp - the 5c green “Sower” - was issued by the French Post Office in 1907, and with Blériot's historic flight drawing the world's attention to the monoplane two years later, I think it's safe to date this postcard sometime during the early 1910s.

It would be fun to try and identify the village and lake the plane is flying over...but I fear that might be an impossible task! Check out the footage below of a modern air show flight of a 1909 Blériot XI
monoplane or click here to watch on YouTube.

Check out the Vintage Postcard Store for more vintage aviation postcards

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, June 8, 2013

Artist signed vintage glamour postcard by M. Cherubini – 1910s

I found this spectacular vintage glamour postcard on a market stall in Rome recently. What struck me first was the exceptionally fine quality of this chromolithographic print. The illustration has been printed on heavy weight watercolour paper and at first glance really looks like the entire image has been hand painted.

This postally uncirculated postcard, with no publisher information, and only “Made in Italy” printed in the stamp box, with the code number 750-3 on the reverse, is a little tricky to date accurately. The back is divided, which puts the card after 1906 when divided backs were first introduced in Italy, whilst the artist who signed the card - M.Cherubini - appears to have been extremely prolific in the 1910s, so I'm guessing this card is from that decade. She rather reminds me of the character Lady Edith Crawley from the TV show Downton Abbey!

Over the years I've seen a huge number of artist signed postcard designs by M.Cherubini, usually featuring portraits of fashionable young women in Art Deco style, with the occasional tamely erotic image, but have been unable to discover anything at all about this Italian graphic artist. If anyone has any biographical information about “M.Cherubini” please feel free to leave a message in the comments 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