Polaire reading in bed. Polaire was the stage name used by French singer and actress Émilie Marie Bouchaud (1874–1939).
Polaire was naturally slender, endowed with the ”sinewy, muscular body of a little Arab” and a ”rib-cage like a Spanish bolero.” Her supposed ugliness – her large hands, large feet, thick mouth and long nose – were flaunted by her promoters. She posed as an enemy of ”civilisation,” and cultivated, on stage, a sensually barbaric style.
Three versions of Frayeur (or “Fright”), photographed by Pierre Louis Pierson, c. 1860.
These photographs depict the Comtesse de Castiglione, an Italian noblewoman who became notorious figure in 1860s Paris, posing for a scene in which she flees from a fire in a ballroom. They not only show a desire to colorize photographs as early as the 1860s, but also illustrate the active role the Countess played in her collaborations with Pierre-Louis Pierson. Coloration in early photography was also a simple way to alter the appearance of the model, and the Countess’s features and expression are considerable softened in the final photograph.
The first image is an albumen print from the glass negative taken by Pierre-Louis Pierson. The second is a salted paper print with color added by the Countess herself, and it even includes handwritten instructions for the rest of the coloration on the back. The third, another salted paper print, was colored by a professional artist.