These four unused postcards featuring the artwork of Jules Cheret are so well preserved that I feared I had been duped into getting modern reproductions -- despite the typical antique postcard size of 3.5 by 5.5 inches! Truly, these cards feel and look "new."
This led me down a rabbit hole of research. Several hours and dozens of web sites later, I have more information than you likely want to know! But I can now proudly and confidently share my coup with you.
These are indeed vintage, most likely antique postcards. Based on information on the cards themselves, the tapestries they were designed for and the history of the printing company, we can determine that these cards were printed in 1927 or earlier. I'm guess-timating much earlier, because vaguely visible on the Spring card and much clearer on Winter, there are the marks "RF G (??) 1910."
Designed by the Father of Modern Poster Design Jules Cheret (31 May 1836 – 23 September 1932), these cards were printed by I. Lapina & Co. of Paris (1914-1927). Cheret created his designs for the Gobelins tapestry company. Thanks to the Hermitage Amsterdam museum, I discovered that the finished Four Seasons Gobelin tapestries were produced circa 1910–1913 and presented to Tsar Nicholas II by the French president on the eve of the First World War! Were postcards of these lovely designs already printed and distributed by then or not until after the war? Other copies of these cards I found circulating online either didn't show the back side or if shown, it was not postally franked.
One other thing that had me scratching my head was the white borders on two of the cards. According to the Amsterdam museum, the Summer tapestry they have on display measures 278 x 172 cm, or a little over 9 by 5.6 feet. Those dimensions don't transfer to postcard size without some distortion. To be true to the design and keep the proper ratio of height and width, the printers had to improvise. Voila: the white borders! Either the other two tapestries were a different size or the printers weren't as meticulous then:)
All those facts and dates aside, aren't these designs stunning! Besides being credited as the father of poster design, Cheret is lovingly referred to as the "father of the women's liberation" because his art showcased free-spirited, elegant, joyous and lively females. The women of Chéret's posters were even called 'Cherettes.' Here we have a Cherette for each season of the year!
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