Sunday, February 27, 2011


For the same reason I shall never forsake Mr Micawber....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Foot Artist, Part 3

The last of these for a while, I swear. But it's damned uncanny. This one came today in the post. If one were a pretentious literary critic one would say this is a Huber creation in which the foot is thematized. Way down in one's feet.

Hanging socks: charmed detail.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Foot Artist, Part 2

Since my first post on the Foot Artist (Jan 16, 2011) I've subsequently found many more cards by this artist and a name: Huber. One source gives a full name, Katherine Huber, and a nationality (U.S.). I am happy enough to accept that the artist may be female (though confess to a teensy bit of reactionary surprise too). Have been trying to verify the attribution through other sources, however, and have so far come up empty. A childrens' book illustrator? Some German or Old World ancestry? She-if she is a she--remains weird as snakes.

This second card is part of a strange series in which three baby-fiends in Teutonic leather pants torment a hapless chauffeur and pull apart his car for reasons I don't understand.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


'Astronomie Enfantine'--the only kind one really understands.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Liked this RPPC from the moment I saw it--bearing witness, as it does, to its anonymous subject's shy, valiant effort to live up to his Sunday-best outfit.

Also reminds me of Mike Disfarmer's spare yet stunning studio portraits of local farmers and their families, taken in Heber Springs, Arkansas, in the 1930s and 1940s. Granted, the image here is much more conventional--the eccentric Disfarmer (1884-1959) never used prettified scenic backcloths or tasteful 'props' like the parlor chair here. But in certain truth-telling details--the softness of the cotton shirt, the downward listing ear, the thin boy-arm and surprisingly large hand, thumb firmly hooked in pocket--the image treats its young subject with a Disfarmer-like visual absorption.

Photography-lovers unfamiliar with Disfarmer have new and rigorous pleasures in store. As many have observed, he's the American August Sander.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Declaration of Love

A quirky visual hybrid: the card publisher has obviously combined a photograph (the young woman) with a drawing (the little clown). It all works, however--almost too well. For who has not felt--in the moment of declaration-- as small and sketchy as this diminutive suitor?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jeune Femme Malgache

A quiet, rather lovely image, now over a hundred years old. Malgache, Malagasy: the words refer to Madagascar--the world's fourth largest island, a French colony from 1895 until 1960, when the Independent Malagasy Republic came into being. The woman shown here is from Diego Suarez (now known as Antsiranana), a port city at the northernmost point of the island. I have never traveled to Madagascar but I can imagine it: lemurs, strange botany, the vestiges of the old pirate utopias.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

La Musique du Général Oku

A French satire on General Oku (Oku Yasukata), Commander of the Imperial Japanese 2nd Army during the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). Though not involved in the fighting, the French were allied with Russia: hence the petard- humor directed at the Japanese. Unhappily for European leaders, not to mention Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the Japanese nonetheless prevailed. I waited almost a month for this card--acquired from an overseas dealer--but I think you will agree it was worth the wait.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saucy, Delectable

Speaking of modernism. . . dramatic cover art for a titillating French production of the 1920s. The 'Willy' here was Henri Gauthier-Villars--prolific journalist, novelist, and walrus-like "literary charlatan and degenerate" who two decades earlier had been Colette's philandering first husband.

Willy was notorious for publishing the works of others under his own name, and according to the Bluebeard mythology, locked the 20-year-old Colette, whose literary talent he had quickly discerned, in a room in their Paris apartment until she produced a novel he might pass off as his own. The resulting work, Claudine à l'école, a saucy and delectable piece of girl-on-girl romance based on Colette's own schooldays, appeared in 1900 (yes, under Willy's name) and became an instant sensation. Colette soon ditched Willy for an aristocratic female lover--the stone butch Mathilde de Mornay, Marquise de Belboeuf--and toured the French provinces with her as a vaudeville performer. Although Willy lost the rights to Claudine in 1906--Colette sued for them and won-- he continued to flourish for many years as writer, roué, and charming old stinker.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oran, Back and Forth

A nice hand-colored 1930s image of Algeria's second largest city. The sense of design shown here, especially in the vertical, vaguely modernist handling of the name of the city, is decidedly elegant.

Oran--a coveted trading port on the Mediter-ranean --has, at different times, been ruled over by Moorish, Spanish, Ottoman, and French occupiers. Thanks to Wikipedia, I find I can connect this post to previous post on Nelson, with yet another chauvinist paean to the Royal Navy. "In July 1940, the British navy shelled French warships in the port after they refused a British ultimatum to surrender which was designed to ensure the fleet would not fall into German hands. The action increased the hatred of the Vichy regime for Britain but convinced the world the British would fight on alone against Nazi Germany and its allies."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Master and Commander

Horatio Nelson, looking a little green around the gills, but so would you after losing an eye and an arm in humungous sea battles with the French fleet.

One of my heroes--natch. Indeed, what self-respecting LGBT BLT doesn't thrill to the gallant admiral's enigmatic-but-suggestive last words, 'Kiss me, Hardy,' addressed to the shipmate who held him as he died of wounds during the Battle of Trafalgar? Forget all that Lady Hamilton business. And besides, Serge Gainsbourg made a super-duper song of the same name in the eighties: pure disco-fied orgasmo-decadence of a transcendent nature.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Psycho-Sartorial Portrait

Cabinet card of the 1890s. The eyes look slightly frightened--at odds with the bravado and technical confidence of the mustache. The card has three pinholes in it around the subject's mouth (click image to see them); one right at the tip of one of the mustache points. All three look like tiny bullet-holes. Why would someone make these neat little punctures? This 'pinprick mystery' is then ramified, coincidentally, by the striking tie-pin, keeping shirt and cravat together. Conclusion? --some sort of niggling self-division one senses in this now-dead man.

Monday, February 7, 2011

'orrible Smoak, Broken Bobbins

A striking hand-tinted photograph from around 1910 of an oil tank 'struck by lightning.' It reminds me of 18th-century engravings of Vesuvius erupting. The green tincture in the smoke: sublime, synesthesic, oddly arboreal.

'Disaster' postcards remain a popular card-collecting category---hard to believe how many fires, boiler explosions, tornadoes, bridge collapses, etc. took place in early 20th-century America. Wisconsin Death Trip indeed.

The second card here is one of several serious-mishap images in my collection: 'Carloads of Wrecked Sewing Machines.' Not clear how said machines got wrecked--in the train? falling out of the train? through some ill-chance having nothing to do with the train? Or simply because a malicious god (you know who you are) ordained it?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Part of What Goes On...

" "the Famous Hot Springs Bath Houses." A so-called 'linen' postcard from the forties or fifties. The hot springs in question are in Arkansas. And yes, one wonders if this is still what's going on. A fair specimen of the psychosexual warpy-weirdness of mid-twentieth-century white American men. Leslie Fiedler: come back, all is forgiven.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Go Dahn the Shops on the King's Road, Malcolm?

One from the category of 'Inexplicables.' An early 1900s Vivienne Westwood? But then what of the elephant? The face-painting? The extravagant pose? Not to mention the Sheer Bollocks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011