LOVE AND COMMERCE: VALENTINE’S DAY CARDS FROM THE SILVIA RIPSTEIN COLLECTION AT THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY

In honor of the Valentine’s Day holiday, I thought I’d circulate a few cards from our collection to all our museum collection lovers out there in the blogosphere. The first item is a die-cut card in the Art Nouveau style dating from 1893 and highlighting New Orleans’ carnival reputation.

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It seems nowadays as if many Americans have moved from hand-delivering or sending printed cards by “snail mail,” to sharing instantaneous tweets and texts, animated e-cards, and personalized photographs to their loved ones over the internet. I thought that I would try to turn the clock this Valentine’s Day back to the 1920s and to share a cache of love notes donated to The Wolfsonian by Silvia Ripstein. This particular set of Valentine’s Day cards capitalized on the growing popularity of photography. Some of the black & white photographs mounted on the cards draw on earlier traditions of still-life paintings to create romantic images complete with descending doves and hand-tinted flowers.

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GIFTS OF SILVIA RIPSTEIN

Other cards in the collection relied on mounted photographs of handsome young men (with slick-backed hair) and beautiful young models (with bobbed hair) to reinforce the personalized messages of love to be scrawled between the covers.

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GIFTS OF SILVIA RIPSTEIN

Often the pretend “lovebirds” strike up amorous poses: holding hands and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes to create a romantic mood.

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GIFTS OF SILVIA RIPSTEIN

In some cards, lovers pass wedding rings in front of heart and photomontage images of weddings, honeymoon scenes–and the consequences thereof!

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Other cards focus exclusively on the couples attired in wedding dress and tuxedo.

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 Other cards picture young newlyweds pausing to sign a registry log as they prepare to celebrate their honeymoon nuptials.

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GIFTS OF SILVIA RIPSTEIN

While it seemed a bit odd to me at first to think of people sending photographic images of handsome strangers posing as amorous lovers either to an object of desire or loved one, I just today came across a Valentine’s Day themed advertisement on the internet using a similar strategy to link love and hair care. The hair cosmetics company Schwarzkopf Professional has put out an ad campaign employing two good-looking South African models to exploit the romance of the holiday and to sell their products. The two-minute commercial developed for the company by the ad agency, BBDO Germany very subtly introduces the product’s use only to cleverly redirect the audience’s attention back to the commercial’s romantic narrative. Except for some rather excessive hair-flipping on the part of the female model (which we see in the boyfriend’s flashbacks as he waxes poetically over her endearing idiosyncrasies), even the most cynical consumer might forget for a moment that they are being sold on hair products. Instead we are pulled in by the beau’s great romantic gesture at the end of the ad designed to play on the viewer’s heartstrings.

 

It appears that the same impulses and “selling” strategies moved people then as now. The Wolfsonian library collection includes a variety of commercial propaganda linking hair care and cosmetics to love affairs, with hardly a difference in tactics from today’s ad, other than the fact that the advertisements of day’s gone by were expressed in printed media rather than in the virtual environment.

XB1992.2275_000  XB1992.2262_000  XB1992.2268_000

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~ by "The Chief" on February 14, 2014.

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