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This postcard is one of those that led me down a rabbit hole! This is a portrait of Marie-Antoinette wearing a hairstyle that was a pro-vaccine political and medical statement! Before Edward Jenner developed his smallpox vaccine in 1798 that was made from cowpox [much milder virus than the deadly smallpox] doctors inoculated patients using pus from smallpox lesions. If the procedure wasn't done right, the patient simply contracted the disease and possibly died! So France was one of the last holdouts in Europe against smallpox vaccinations. But when King Louis XV died from the disease in 1774, Louis XVI and his two brothers were all successfully vaccinated. Voila! the "pouf" or "coeffure [coiffure] à l’inoculation" was created to celebrate the event: the serpent of Asclepius, representing medicine, wrapped around a club, representing conquest. Of course, the rising sun symbolized the king himself. And finally, amidst the powdered wig and tresses, there was a flowering olive branch, symbolizing the peace and joy resulting from the royal inoculation. A most informative article from the January 2015 issue of "The Atlantic" explains the history of this hairdo but the author says, "Sadly, no image of the pouf à l’inoculation has survived. At the time, fashion magazines weren't published regularly, and trends came and went so fast that they rarely left a visual record." No image from 1774 perhaps but here, circa 1926, we do have a colorful rendering of the 'do' by Georges-Paul Manceau (1872-1955).The original painting can be seen at the Musée de L'Académie de Médecine de Paris. I can't help but wonder if the museum or the academy itself commissioned Manceau to paint this rendering of the queen for historical records. I can tell you it is a rare postcard and it doubles not only as a history lesson but, verso, also an advertisement for Carine Lefrancq, which was a "pure, raw, concentrated juice made from beef muscle" that promised to be an "energetic restorative." This postcard is in fine condition for its age with the minimalist signs of wear on the edges, and although not an antique, it is antique, pre-modern postcard size of about 3.5 by 5.5 inches. The cardstock is thinner than normal postcard cardstock, so either the museum or the pharmaceutical company that produced Carine Lefrancq were pinching pennies:)
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Marie Antoinette with her Pro-Vaccination Hairstyle French Advertising Postcard
$56 USD SOLD
Unique French Postcards for the Serious Collector and Other Delights from France!
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