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1887, february 26 (a saturday) The Photograph Never Lies In which a front page brings attention to Rachilde’s hair The February 26, 1887, edition of La Vie moderne features an engraving of Rachilde on its cover by Ernest Langlois. It appears to depict the head and shoulders of a short-haired Rachilde in three-quarters profile, a man’s hat perched on her head, and wearing a tailored man’s jacket. This chapter analyzes this image further in order to show how the public image of Rachilde could be “massaged” by both Rachilde herself and others who had an interest in portraying her in a certain way. This analysis requires some comments on the history of gendered clothing and on the legend of Rachilde’s short hair. First, however, it is necessary to say something about Langlois’s engraving. In 1887, the routine printing of photographs in newspapers was still in the future (the first photographic image in a French periodical would appear in July 1891, according to Anne-Claude AmbroiseRendu ), but images of people and events could be reproduced in a number of other ways suitable to the mass production of widely circulated publications. Rachilde’s appearance on the cover of La Vie moderne is both a tribute to her popularity—she was newsworthy—and an example of the ways in which the needs of advertising and the needs of her career reinforced one another. The picture of a well-known, notorious, or otherwise famous person on the cover of a mass-produced journal was not an advertisement in the strict sense. That such attention was given to a writer could be justified by the public demand for information , but, to the extent that such pandering to public tastes increased sales (for both the newspaper itself as well as for the writer), such representations functioned like advertising. In this way, publicity, in the sense of simply making public or attracting public attention, overlaps with advertising, in which the economic interest is more explicit. The fact that photographs were not yet routinely reproduced in mass publications does not, of course, mean that photography itself was uncommon , at least among the middle class. In fact, there exists an extensive photographic record of Rachilde’s life, ranging from formally posed studio portraits extending from her earliest years throughout her professional career to more casual snapshots taken in middle age. (Studio portraits exist of her parents as well.) The more informal photographs begin to proliferate in the 1890s, by which time cameras had become more portable and easier to use and the technology therefore became less the exclusive province of trained professionals and more the pastime of the bourgeoisie. One series of snapshots, for example, shows activities at the collective summer home of the phalanstère, with Alfred Jarry and various items of sports equipment—bicycles, boats, fishing The cover of La Vie moderne, February 26, 1887. Reprinted from Dauphiné, Rachilde (1985). rods—and Rachilde posing in a javanaise dance (made popular by the 1889 international exhibition’s re-creations of exotic street scenes in Paris), as well as indoor dining scenes and pictures of family pets. In the 1880s, that moment of informality had not yet arrived: it was still easier (that is, cheaper) to reproduce an engraving than a photograph . But it was easier to model an engraving on a photograph (or some other fixed representation) than to model directly from life. To ask the subject to pose for an engraving when a photograph could be made so easily was to waste the subject’s time and complicate the life of the engraver. So, even though photographs were not reproduced directly in the mass media, they were being reproduced indirectly (Ambroise-Rendu 7). To illustrate this phenomenon with reference to Rachilde, one need look no further than the portrait of Rachilde by Marguerite van Bever from 1898 (the date is inscribed in roman numerals on the picture) that was used to illustrate Gaubert’s biography in 1907.1 The description of this work as a “portrait” (Dauphiné,Rachilde [1985] between 96 and 97) might be taken to imply that Rachilde actually sat for the engraver, but a glance at the photographic record quickly shows that the engraving was actually based on a Paris studio photograph (also reproduced in Dauphiné, Rachilde [1985] between 96 and 97), this one inscribed to Vallette. It is easy to identify the similarities between van Bever’s portrait and the photographic original: the pose...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803200821
MARC Record
OCLC
50744992
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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