NAUGHTY FRENCH POSTCARDS
Saucy postcards from France were once eagerly sought after by aficionados of erotica. Now, these quaintly naive cards are attracting a wider audience.
Around the turn of the 20th century, France, or more particularly, Paris, was recognized worldwide as the hot-spot of life's racier side. The Folies Bergere, the Moulin Rouge and the night-life of the 'naughty nineties' had all contributed to Franc's reputation of casualness in matters of sex. 'French' had become a byword for 'saucy', and a trip to Paris was the dream of many a red-blooded man.
This perceived decadence was soon seen as fertile ground by the infant picture postcard trade Since the introduction of the first
illustrated card in the 1880s, postcards had proved popular, but only with wealthy travellers; for though they were cheap to send, they were expensive to produce and buy. However, by 1910 after the advent of new printing techniques which made them much cheaper, they were being mass produced on a huge scale.
In addition, the development of photography over the last decades of the 19th century widened the range of illustrative material that could be used cheaply on cards. With the gathering forces of technology combining to offer the potential for cheap, realistic erotica, it was hardly surprising that postcard publishers in Paris began to think of capitalizing on the more nefarious attractions of the 'City of Sin'.
Some cards were published in sequenced sets and told a story - albeit rather simple and with an inevitable ending. The sender would, perhaps, send one card each day of his holiday so that the receiver was tantalized by slow degree. The artistically posed cards, often borrowing heavily from classical scenes, were sent openly through the post. Those of a more
risqué nature were put into separate envelopes for delivery. This means that many cards arrived in pristine condition, having no written message nor postmark on them.
The first two decades of the 20th century saw saucy postcards at their most popular. Sales peaked at the end of World War 1 and tailed off as the last of the soldiers, who bought souvenir postcards that expressed the longing that soldiers feel for all things female, passed through Paris and returned home.
Erotic postcards can be works of art, amusing period pieces or just plain good fun to collect. They were produced in great quantities in the early decades of the century and are not difficult to find.
EROTICA COLLECTOR'S NOTES
Many specialist postcard dealers exhibit regularly al antiques fairs and flea markets. Collector's lots sometimes come up at auction but you may find yourself paying a high price for a complete lot when you are interested only in one or two unusual cards.
LOOSE NUDE POSTCARDS
Condition of postcards is important. Avoid cards with dog-eared corners, creases, or those that are grubby overall. Cards that have been glued into albums or those that have been cut from an adhesive backing mount retain little of their value. Cards should always be bought loose and displayed in the same way.
Generally speaking, the earlier the card the more it will be worth as a document. But dating postcards can be extremely difficult as many show no information at all on their reverse ides - especially the more risque examples. Early erotic cards would be sent through he post in a sealed envelope, so there will he no postmark to guide you. Fashions and
dress of the time may give some clues to period, though this is of limited use where the models a e wearing next to nothing.
In 1900 the French police raided shops all over Paris and seized huge quantities of explicit cards. For a while thereafter this resulted n naked girls being photographed in a maillot, or flesh-coloured body-stocking, to avoid further prosecution. By the end of the postcard's heyday, around World War 1, attitudes had become more relaxed and the names of companies and photographers and the date began to appear on cards.