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Monday, March 15, 2010

Reutlinger - Parisian Photo Postcards of the Stars

The Reutlinger Studio in Paris was opened in 1850 and took photos of the famous and fashionable until 1937 - many stars of the stage in cabarets and opera houses found their way to Reutlinger, and many cabinet photos and real photo postcards survive for the contemporary collector to enjoy.

This post looks at the variety the Reutlinger Studios produced on real photo postcards, from famous actresses to pretty ladies to charming little girls.  Always beautiful, sometimes fantastical, the Reutlingers often used combined or multiple images, sometimes adding props and artist's embellishments, to create designs that would capture the imagination.  Here are two postcards of well-known performers, De Toledo and Anna Held, each using repeating images with different colored tinting to create dramatic postcards.
There were actually three Reutlingers in this French family of German descent. Charles founded the studio in 1850 to take portraits of actors, artists, musicians, composers, singers and dancers of the time.  Thirty years later, Charles gave the studio's leadership to his brother, Emile, who was joined by his son, Leopold-Emile a few years later.  Leopold-Emile took over the studio in 1890, adding erotic images to the Reutlinger portfolio.  The studio flourished, making photographs for commercial and advertising usage, but also mass-producing portraits of performers for the adoring and collecting public.  These are the images modern-day collectors prize, too.

Here we see a lovely lady attended by winged toddler angels in a sepia-tone image.  The fact that the woman's name is not printed on the card does not necessarily mean she was a private client or model - she may have been a performer so famous (like the three women in the close-up trio portrait with which we open this post) that her name was known to all who saw her.  It does make it harder for the present-day collector to identify her status, however!

Below is a photo montage of a performer posed against a lady's fan, surrounded by painted blossoms.  Adding these visual elements allowed Reutlinger to use portraits of the stars in different sets, each with its own unifying design.

The series above places portraits of stars inside art nouveau designs - here we have Daubray and Mariette Sully in a swirled pattern with a background that has a tiny bubble-like design.  Light tinting adds color to the performers and to the peach-colored decoration.  Sometimes Reutlinger 'posed' the beautiful women as if they were floating in water, in a starry sky, or in even more imaginative settings.  To the left is a valuable design where the portrait of Saulier is repeated upside down as if on a playing card. Her outfit and the flowers in her hair are tinted pink.  Another fanciful series 'posed' ladies inside winged bells - these flying bells appear above towns in tumultuous cloudy skies and carry the caption, Voyages de Cloches.
A bevy of beauties arrayed along a crescent moon
showcases stars among the stars in a painted night sky.  Because the Reutlinger studios were in production for so many years, some designs will be found on early undivided-back postcards.  These will frequently have messages written from the sender on the front, since only the address was allowed on the back. A neatly-written message that does not cover the portrait itself is not usually considered a flaw on an undivided-back postcard. Also, postcards mailed in France may have the stamp on the front of the card, rather than on the address side.   

We close with an unusual Reutlinger image of little girls in a wintery setting...on one side are painted evergreen trees in a snowy landscape, and around the girls a 'frame' mixes flowers and leaves to enhance the image of these two young beauties with rosy cheeks and soulful eyes. 

Although other photographic studios also created beautiful portraits, Reutlinger stands alone in creativity and novel fantasy styling.  With so many images created over so many years, the Reutlinger signature provides the collector a wide variety of elegant collectible portraits.

Price Estimates:  Prices for Reutlinger postcards vary according to rarity of the design, tinting and the beauty of the image.  You can sometimes find a Reutlinger studio real photo portrait for $10 dollars; the prices can go as high as $50 for the harder-to-find images.  These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates of current prices. 
(You may also enjoy exploring Walery from France, Fotocelere from Italy and the several German and English publishers who took photo portraits of beautiful women and famous actresses at the turn-of-the-century.)


  1. MOLTO BELLO!!! Thank you for sharing this very interesting article. Thank you also for sharing this Wonderful Postcards. Again Thank you! More Power and *GOD BLESS*

  2. Beautiful cards, I have one: http://arkadia-bonumest.blogspot.com/
    Thank you, very interesting article. Regards Maria

  3. Hi! The lovely lady with the toddler angels is the Finnish opera singer Aino Ackté, who was a big star in Paris (and elsewhere) around 1900. She has been in several Reutlinger cards.

    1. Great information - thank you so much - I always love to learn about the history of the postcard...appreciate your input!

  4. Nice Postcards Phoths!! Thank You!
    There Are Some Chance To Get Reutlinger's Post Cards In Japan, Antique Fairs.

    1. Hi - glad you like these...I've found there are many avid postcard collectors in Japan - do you have postcard clubs near your home?

  5. Does anyone know the fate of the Reutlinger studio after they closed? Were the archives kept at the BnF or at any other archive or were they scattered througout?

  6. Quel est le destin des archives et la collection de Reutlinger? ou existent-ils?
    Avait il des heritiers? ou sont ils apsse a la BnF our autres?