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Divine Presence in Spain and Western Europe 1500-1960

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William A. Christian

Connecting with the Absent and the Super naturals

Texte intégral

  • 1 I thank Daniel Wojcik for help on terminology and sources.
  • 2 For nineteenth-century composite images, Henisch, Photographic Experience, 43–48, 281, 355–58, 383 (...)

1Composite images, whether by photomontage, multiple exposure, sandwiched negatives, or other techniques, provided other solutions to the depiction of visions.1 Since the earliest days of their craft, photographers had experimented with combinations.2 The postcard trade encouraged the notion of absence combined with fondness, and combining images was a good way to picture the virtual reunion created by the card when sent. The period of 1895 to the end of World War I, which included massive migration and then the separation of soldiers from families, was its heyday (Figs. 15–81). The absence involved could also be the absent dead (Figs. 82–84). Spiritualist photographers from the 1860s on used photomontage to capture the visits of the dead to loved ones (Fig. 85).

  • 3 Laurentin, Vrai visage, 2: 74–75.

2The combination of images was quickly put to use as a way to simulate visions in which the seer and the seen could be depicted together. As early as 1864, the photographer Dufour experimented with combining a photo of Bernadette kneeling in prayer, taken in a Tarbes studio, with the Lourdes grotto that had a statue of the Virgin she was supposedly seeing, although he had her somewhat off the ground and facing the wrong way.3 (Fig. 86.)

  • 4 Chéroux, “Ghost dialectics,” 46.

3The combination of supernaturals and humans, whether through a mixture of photos and art, or with actors combined through multiple exposure or photomontage, or using painted backdrops, or groups of actors in real photos, is a constant in the decade before World War I (Figs. 87–88). Ghosts, spirits and dreams figured in commercial photographs and lantern slide shows by the 1850s, depicted around the living by use of multiple exposure or multiple negatives.4 (Figs. 89–90.) Beings like these, not just the family dead, also turn up in spirit photographs and early twentieth-century commercial postcards (Figs. 91-92). We see angels as guardians, especially with children, and in photo portraits, children dressed as angels (Figs. 93–97). Saint Nicolas/Père Noel appears especially with children; he is a more familiar figure who even poses for the camera and at times looks a lot like grandfather (Figs. 98–101).

4This last, laїque version gives an inkling of the two world-views in struggle in this period, a struggle reflected in postcards. Apparitions, whether of the Sacred Heart to a nun at Paray-le-Monial, or to the children of La Salette or Bernadette at Lourdes, were for many Catholics signs for France as a nation. At the same time French secularists, followed by their peers in other Southern European nations, were militantly anti-Catholic. In the postcards we thus find allegorical figures for the nation, always a woman, that variously are conceived as Catholic (whether being trussed by Freemasons, or protected by Christ, or blessed by the Pope), semi-Catholic, or completely non-Catholic (Figs. 102–105). A rare anarchist card from 1909, at the death of the Catalan-Spanish educator Francisco Ferrer, presents an entirely different woman, freed from clerical chains, proud of body, with no emblem of national identity (Fig. 106).

Fig. 75. “Thought knows no distance.” From woman in Bessan (Hérault) to sister, in Faugères, March 1905. “Tell me if you got the basket...” Nancy, Bergeret.

Fig. 76. Sisters aloft. From Madeleine and Lucienne Bardorell to Mlle Ernestine Doncourt in America, “Bonne et heureuse Année.” France, printed frame, Champigny (Seine), G. Gossens.

Fig. 77. From woman, in Spanish, “Your friend wishes you a happy saint’s day.” Bought in Barcelona. Berlin, Rotophot 2873/1.

Fig. 78. Sent within Budapest from Laci to Tóth Sárika (“Aranyos Pipikém!” [My littlle darling!]) April 18, 1912. Vienna, OPG 3411/12.

Fig. 79. Written in French from woman to lover. Paris, Rex 475.

Fig. 80. “From afar he knows how to thrill me with the caress of a kiss.” Sent with New Year greetings to Mlle, in Vitré, Jan. 3, 1915. Paris, Rex 4639.

Fig. 81. “Dream.” Sent from Jeanne to Mlle in Anduze (Gard).
“Souhaits sincères: Un gentil mari.” Berlin, Georg Gerlach Co. 1416/2.

Fig. 82. Hamburg, Fritz Korf, EFFKA Serie 233, No. 1. Postcard bought from southern Spain.

Fig. 83. Written in Portuguese from aunt and uncle to nephew and niece, April 25, 1911, hoping niece gets better. Rotophot, Berlin 5015/16.

Fig. 84. From woman in village in Haute-Loire to soldier in Avignon, March 11, 1909. Paris, Croissant 3381/5.

Fig. 85. Mrs. R. Foulds, of Sheffield, “with psychic likeness of her mother, obtained under good test conditions,” by William Hope, 1920, in Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case for Spirit Photography (New York: Doran, 1923), Fig. 24.

Fig. 86. Composite photograph of Bernadette in a studio in Tarbes and grotto at Lourdes, Oct. 1864 [in Vircondelet h/t6, Laurentin 74].
Tarbes, Paul Dufour. © BNF

Fig. 87. Girl praying to Murillo, Inmaculada. From woman in Barcelona to woman in Blanes, July 4, 1914. Berlin, NPG 3508.

Fig. 88. “You who can read my heart, have pity on my sorrow.” From woman to “Mon cher aimé,” Feb. 14, 1915: “...I hope when I get home this evening I will find news from you...” Paris, Rex 4110.

Fig. 89. “Only a Dream,” stereoscopic photograph of dancers with fans. Meadville, Penna, Keystone View Company 635. Copyright 1894 by B. L. Singley.

Fig. 90. “Be the Howly St. Patrick, there’s Mickie’s Ghost!” stereoscopic photograph of ghost at wake. New York, N. Y., Strohmeyer and Wyman, copyright 1894.

Fig. 91. The journalist W.T. Stead with spirit, 1891. From Gettings, Ghosts in Photographs (1978). Photographer unknown.

Fig. 92. Pianist and spirit holding laurel crown. From Villefranche-sur-Saône to Mlle, in Gap, May 8, 1906. Berlin, Rotophot S. 428-4976.

Fig. 93. Girl with guardian angel. From woman in Hérisson (Allier) to girl in Montluçon (Allier), Dec. 15, 1912. Paris, Croissant 3877.

Fig. 94. Bad girl with weeping guardian angel. From Autignac (Hérault) to daughter in Béziers, 1903. Paris, Neurdein.

Fig. 95. Guardian angel by toddlers in bed. Sent within Catalonia to Srta Montserrat Julià from cousins Juana and Rosa Font, April 29, 1896. Rotophot, Berlin S-511-5444.

Fig. 96. Child angels around toddler in manger.
Vienna, H.H.I.W. Serie 916, after 1905.

Fig. 97. First Mass priest (blessed by painted Christ) with child angels, late nineteenth-century cabinet card 10.2x14.9. Masnou (Barcelona), E. Sagristá.

Fig. 98. Father Christmas above city puts children to sleep. Nancy, Bergeret, after 1905.

Fig. 99. St. Nicolas approaches children asleep in crib. Sent in Spain to man from male friend and friend’s sister. Vienna OPG 3133/40, after 1905.

Fig. 100. “Christmas Eve.” Father Christmas, presents, and three girls, from father to daughter in Alençon; undivided back. France, S.I.P. 1115.

Fig. 101. “Snow and cold come with sweet Christmas.” Snowy man surprises two girls by hearth. Sent to couple in Le Raincy. France, EPR 186.

Fig. 102. “God protects France. 1. God has shown his love for France above all other nations. 2. The Sacred Heart, Lourdes, La Salette, the Miraculous Medal, Saint Michael, etc.” From man in St-Laurent-du-Mottay (M-et-L) to female cousin in Angers. Paris, Librairie des Catéchismes, after 1905.

Fig. 103. “God protects France!”
France [dice] 179, c. 1905.

Fig. 104. “France, despite the impious sects, will always be joined to the Seat of Peter.” To female teacher in école libre, Sous-le-Bois, c. 1906. Paris, D. Saudinos Ritouret.

Fig. 105. “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.”
From Versailles to Mile, in Paris, July 1906, undivided back. France, ATS.

Fig. 106. “Montjuich - La vision ultime (The last vision).” Postcard c. 1909 of “Tableau en couleurs, format 65x50 cm.” by F. Sagristá after the execution in Barcelona of Francisco Ferrer. Geneva, Le Réveil.

Notes

1 I thank Daniel Wojcik for help on terminology and sources.

2 For nineteenth-century composite images, Henisch, Photographic Experience, 43–48, 281, 355–58, 383-88.

3 Laurentin, Vrai visage, 2: 74–75.

4 Chéroux, “Ghost dialectics,” 46.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 75. “Thought knows no distance.” From woman in Bessan (Hérault) to sister, in Faugères, March 1905. “Tell me if you got the basket...” Nancy, Bergeret.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Légende Fig. 76. Sisters aloft. From Madeleine and Lucienne Bardorell to Mlle Ernestine Doncourt in America, “Bonne et heureuse Année.” France, printed frame, Champigny (Seine), G. Gossens.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 113k
Légende Fig. 77. From woman, in Spanish, “Your friend wishes you a happy saint’s day.” Bought in Barcelona. Berlin, Rotophot 2873/1.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 86k
Légende Fig. 78. Sent within Budapest from Laci to Tóth Sárika (“Aranyos Pipikém!” [My littlle darling!]) April 18, 1912. Vienna, OPG 3411/12.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 77k
Légende Fig. 79. Written in French from woman to lover. Paris, Rex 475.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 73k
Légende Fig. 80. “From afar he knows how to thrill me with the caress of a kiss.” Sent with New Year greetings to Mlle, in Vitré, Jan. 3, 1915. Paris, Rex 4639.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 107k
Légende Fig. 81. “Dream.” Sent from Jeanne to Mlle in Anduze (Gard).“Souhaits sincères: Un gentil mari.” Berlin, Georg Gerlach Co. 1416/2.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Fig. 82. Hamburg, Fritz Korf, EFFKA Serie 233, No. 1. Postcard bought from southern Spain.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 69k
Légende Fig. 83. Written in Portuguese from aunt and uncle to nephew and niece, April 25, 1911, hoping niece gets better. Rotophot, Berlin 5015/16.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 137k
Légende Fig. 84. From woman in village in Haute-Loire to soldier in Avignon, March 11, 1909. Paris, Croissant 3381/5.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 101k
Légende Fig. 85. Mrs. R. Foulds, of Sheffield, “with psychic likeness of her mother, obtained under good test conditions,” by William Hope, 1920, in Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case for Spirit Photography (New York: Doran, 1923), Fig. 24.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 163k
Légende Fig. 86. Composite photograph of Bernadette in a studio in Tarbes and grotto at Lourdes, Oct. 1864 [in Vircondelet h/t6, Laurentin 74].Tarbes, Paul Dufour. © BNF
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 123k
Légende Fig. 87. Girl praying to Murillo, Inmaculada. From woman in Barcelona to woman in Blanes, July 4, 1914. Berlin, NPG 3508.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 110k
Légende Fig. 88. “You who can read my heart, have pity on my sorrow.” From woman to “Mon cher aimé,” Feb. 14, 1915: “...I hope when I get home this evening I will find news from you...” Paris, Rex 4110.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k
Légende Fig. 89. “Only a Dream,” stereoscopic photograph of dancers with fans. Meadville, Penna, Keystone View Company 635. Copyright 1894 by B. L. Singley.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 121k
Légende Fig. 90. “Be the Howly St. Patrick, there’s Mickie’s Ghost!” stereoscopic photograph of ghost at wake. New York, N. Y., Strohmeyer and Wyman, copyright 1894.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 114k
Légende Fig. 91. The journalist W.T. Stead with spirit, 1891. From Gettings, Ghosts in Photographs (1978). Photographer unknown.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Légende Fig. 92. Pianist and spirit holding laurel crown. From Villefranche-sur-Saône to Mlle, in Gap, May 8, 1906. Berlin, Rotophot S. 428-4976.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Légende Fig. 93. Girl with guardian angel. From woman in Hérisson (Allier) to girl in Montluçon (Allier), Dec. 15, 1912. Paris, Croissant 3877.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Légende Fig. 94. Bad girl with weeping guardian angel. From Autignac (Hérault) to daughter in Béziers, 1903. Paris, Neurdein.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 170k
Légende Fig. 95. Guardian angel by toddlers in bed. Sent within Catalonia to Srta Montserrat Julià from cousins Juana and Rosa Font, April 29, 1896. Rotophot, Berlin S-511-5444.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 55k
Légende Fig. 96. Child angels around toddler in manger.Vienna, H.H.I.W. Serie 916, after 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 63k
Légende Fig. 97. First Mass priest (blessed by painted Christ) with child angels, late nineteenth-century cabinet card 10.2x14.9. Masnou (Barcelona), E. Sagristá.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Légende Fig. 98. Father Christmas above city puts children to sleep. Nancy, Bergeret, after 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 240k
Légende Fig. 99. St. Nicolas approaches children asleep in crib. Sent in Spain to man from male friend and friend’s sister. Vienna OPG 3133/40, after 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Légende Fig. 100. “Christmas Eve.” Father Christmas, presents, and three girls, from father to daughter in Alençon; undivided back. France, S.I.P. 1115.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende Fig. 101. “Snow and cold come with sweet Christmas.” Snowy man surprises two girls by hearth. Sent to couple in Le Raincy. France, EPR 186.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 71k
Légende Fig. 102. “God protects France. 1. God has shown his love for France above all other nations. 2. The Sacred Heart, Lourdes, La Salette, the Miraculous Medal, Saint Michael, etc.” From man in St-Laurent-du-Mottay (M-et-L) to female cousin in Angers. Paris, Librairie des Catéchismes, after 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 159k
Légende Fig. 103. “God protects France!”France [dice] 179, c. 1905.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
Légende Fig. 104. “France, despite the impious sects, will always be joined to the Seat of Peter.” To female teacher in école libre, Sous-le-Bois, c. 1906. Paris, D. Saudinos Ritouret.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 202k
Légende Fig. 105. “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.”From Versailles to Mile, in Paris, July 1906, undivided back. France, ATS.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 161k
Légende Fig. 106. “Montjuich - La vision ultime (The last vision).” Postcard c. 1909 of “Tableau en couleurs, format 65x50 cm.” by F. Sagristá after the execution in Barcelona of Francisco Ferrer. Geneva, Le Réveil.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ceup/docannexe/image/1931/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 125k

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