Elise De Vere was indeed a very pretty woman and her pose in this image can be described as risque. She poses in this cabinet card photograph for famed celebrity photographer, Charles Reutlinger. Reutlinger’s studio was located at 21 Boulevard in Paris, France. The photograph was published in 1899. Small print located at the bottom of the reverse of the card states R. Dechavannes. He may be in fact the actual photographer of the portrait. Perhaps the photograph was published by Reutlinger but not actually photographed by him. The facts concerning the role of Reutlinger and Dechavannes are not clear. To view other photographs by Dechavannes, click on the category “Photographer: Dechavannes”. To view other photographs by Reutlinger, click on the category “Photographer: Reutlinger”. Elise De Vere was an English actress/singer who performed in music halls and operas around 1900. The previous year she had won second place in a beauty contest at the Paris Olympia Theatre. She was described at the contest as a “Chanteuse Excentrique” (Eccentric Singer). Around 1900 she was a stage diva in Europe and America. In 1903-1904 she performed in the Flo Ziegfeld Broadway opera “Red Feather” which played at the Lyrical Theatre and then the Grand Opera Theatre. In announcing De Vere’s arrival in America to play in “Red Feather”, The New York Times (1903) writes that although she was a Parisienne, she spoke excellent English (shouldn’t have been a surprise, she was English). The article added that De Vere had recently learned to sing in German. In a later article, the New York Times (1903) labelled De Vere as a “Soubrette” in the “Red Feather”. A soubrette is a stock character in opera or theatre. A soubrette is frequently a comedic character who is often portrayed as vain, girlish, mischievous, gossipy and light hearted.
This cabinet card is a postmortem photograph of a young girl. The image is upsetting and sad, but served as a remembrance of a family member for their grief stricken family. Note the flowers and cross lying on the child’s bed and the religious statues and candles on the side table. The photographer of this cabinet card was R. Dechavannes, whose studio was located in Paris, France. To view other photographs by Dechavannes, click on the category “Photographer: Dechavannes”. Hopefully, visitors to the cabinet card gallery will not find this image offensive. A website called “Ostrobogulous Cackleberries”, has an interesting article about the practice of postmortem photography. The writer states that during the Victorian era, photographing the recently deceased was “extremely prevalent”. The author points out that the practice existed before the invention of the camera. Instead of photographing the dead, artists painted their portraits immediately following their death. In many cases, the postmortem photo was the only image a family possessed of the departed family member. Many of the Victorian memorial photographs were of infants and children. The mortality rate of children during that time was very high. The writer offers a description of how the dead were posed and there seems to be a great deal of approaches to the practice. Postmortem images could be full body or facial close-ups. Coffins were not frequently included in the picture. The dead were often posed as if they were sleeping and sometimes were presented as life-like. In some photos they were braced or tied into chairs or propped up against other family members to look as alive as possible. According to the article, the popularity of postmortem photography faded in the early twentieth century. Funerals moved from the home parlor tot the funeral parlor. Society stopped “embracing mortality” and we became the death denying culture of today.