I really need to move to Paris. There’s just always so much going on. Take the monthly lecture series at the Bibliothèque des Arts décoratifs: Petits Trésors et autres découvertes, for example. Each month, they highlight a small work that might otherwise be overlooked. The next talk will be on February 12 at 1 PM and it will feature the cabinet-card portraits of photographer Léopold Reutlinger.
Reutlinger specialized in small portraits of the great beauties in the latter part of the 19th century. The photos were attached to ornate cards, often embellished with advertising for the photographer. They were then displayed in cabinets, thus their name. Reutlinger was the third generation of his family to run their studio in Paris and it was his decision to focus on glamour photography rather than general portraiture. He took photos of the opera and theatre stars of Belle Époque Paris, and there’s never been a more glamorous time or place. He distinguished his pictures from the competition by tinting them with a little red dye, so Reutlinger’s photos came to be known as salmon cards. He often mounted his photos on salmon-colored cardboard, as in the one on the left. His poses were also different – elegantly simple silhouettes against a plain background. If you come across a Reutlinger cabinet card in a flea market or slipped into the back of an old family album, count yourself lucky, because they’re considered highly collectible.
When Reutlinger died in 1937, his estate gave a group of his portraits to the library, or la bibliothèque (bib-lee-o-tek) of the musée des Arts décoratifs. The portraits give a wonderful peek into the looking glass of the legendary Parisian beauties of the 1890s and the lectures give an equally wonderful opportunity to learn about a by-gone photographer and his techniques.
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