“THE SENSATION OF THE YEAR. FIRST PRIZE — At Paris Salon, June 1912, for which the Artist won the medal of honor, the highest recognition which any Artist can attain in France. The picture shows a rarely beautiful blond figure posed in the waters of the sea of Brittany an an hour when it glows like a great fire opal.” I had to think about this description for a while. I don’t think the writer means that the figure is only beautiful on rare occasions; I think he means that the beauty itself is rare.
Although Chabas won the Medal of Honor in France, the painting attracted little attention. Thus, he sent it to America to attract a buyer, where it was spotted in a gallery window by Anthony Comstock, moral crusader and founder of the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice. As a result of the publicity, bright boys began reproducing the image on everything from cigar boxes to calendars to postcards — one of which you see above, contemporary to the scandal. Thanks to Comstock’s political appointment as an agent of the Postal Service, the postcard itself was prohibited in the mails; consequently, this card is unused.
This sepia-toned reproduction does not do justice to the painting. I purchased this card in an antique shop for a dollar.
(This article was originally published at Wild Postcards on 25 August 2008.)