The Constituent Elements of a Postcard

by lingonberryjelly

Girl in a Swing, hand-tinted - front

My second real post is a guest blog by Redpoulaine.

The Constituent Elements of a Postcard

We have a theory about these cards, okay, I have a theory…it has to do with their essential nature, and goes beyond their material component parts, the paper, metallic salts, inks and paint.

You know what you sometimes get a sense of at the train station, or the airport, when you witness a homecoming? The embrace of lovers, or of parents and children, and it is a kind of electric field coming off of them. On a chilly night, you could almost warm your hands by it. I suspect this is what is most real and permanent about human beings, but it is certainly a subtle thing, and not something we are often aware of as we rush about the ordinary business of the day.

Well, I believe that is what we love most about these cards. Of course their subject matter has a lot to do with it. In renaissance times, many of the great painters composed masterpieces in which they arranged their subjects on the canvas in a mathematically precise way so as to reflect a number they believed to be sympathetic with a particular planetary influence. The pigments they used were also carefully chosen and balanced in this way so that a painting, in its final form, was for example, also a talisman of the sun, and would be presented as such to their patron.

Of course, in the early days of industry, during which our postcards were produced, it is doubtful that such intention was ever applied, so that it was by happenstance only that such affects were achieved, but here… have you often seen an image that better describes joy than this one?

And one in a group of thirty or forty women, in a small room off a narrow and crowded lane in Paris’s Quartier Latin probably applied the color to this image. They were, perhaps, paid in piecework, so their efforts were hurried. No great thought would have gone into their choice of coloration, so almost by accident, then…what beauty was achieved!

And finally, before the ease of communication afforded by the invention of the telephone, all of the love and kindness poured into these cards…it is remarkable, and the pleasure gotten when they arrived in the post.

In this case, Mlle. Marie received this card from her friend Mlle. Maud, who writes thanking her for the card she received earlier, which, she says, was very lovely, and made her happy. She asks for a long letter, and requests that she be remembered to Marie’s Mother and Father. Marie, we imagine, received this card with happiness and surprise, and had perhaps brought it to the breakfast table, where she absentmindedly set down a bowl of strawberries that was a little wet on the bottom, and left a mark that decades later resulted in the oxidized crescent we see in the image today.

When Marie carefully stored this card in her album (so many young ladies kept a postcard album in those days), it was preserved with all its constituent parts intact, among them, I like to imagine, the love and affection inherent in both its sending and receiving that, like rays of the sun entering a room through a glass window are held within that room, were caught inside this card, and stored there, so that more than a hundred years later, this is what we hold in our hands, a card possessed of love, happiness, beauty, joy and warmth retained for more than a century. The photographer, the colorist, the young actress in the swing, Marie, and Maud, all are probably dust by now, but all of them are here. In a very pure sense, magic.