This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Art of Austrian Postcards

13 October 2018

Vintage photographs come in a wide variety
of shades of grey and sepia tones.
Though these antique images are often
wonderfully detailed and clear
they are seriously deficient when it comes to determining
the natural color of eyes, hair, clothing, costumes and uniforms.

So when I acquired this delightful caricature entitled
Damenkapelle or Ladies Band in German
it was a cheap thrill to finally get some color,
even if just an artist's interpretation.

The postcard was not mailed and has no message.
The artist signature is printed in the lower right corner
but the cursive style is too difficult for me to even guess the name.
The only clue to its origin was a printers mark on the back
B.K.W.I. 9,3–1    Printed in Austria.


From at least the 1890s to the 1920s, Damenkapple or Damen Orchester, were an enormously popular musical ensemble in the cafes, restaurants, and music halls of the German and Austrian empires. The two German terms seem to have been interchangeable for both a ladies band or ladies orchestra. Generally the brass bands were from Germany and the string orchestras from Austria. This image of a the Österreichischen Damen-Orchester und Quatett -Sänger, J. Bach shows a typical Austrian ladies ensemble of nine musicians, all women except for two men in the back row. Most are string players with violins, a cello, and double bass. But there is a triangle, snare and bass drum on the floor in front. The man at the back left holds a flute, hidden in the dark shade of the half-tone print. Notice that the cartoon orchestra also has a bald-headed man playing trumpet in the back row.

This postcard was sent on the 28 of June 1900 from Karlsruhe in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It's interesting that the writer added a personal touch with a heart drawn over the chest of the female double bass player. Perhaps she was the one to send the postcard.

The leader of the cartoon Damenkapelle shows off a fashion for ribbons and collars that mimics perfectly the fashions in the female musical troupes of the 1900s.

This image comes from a postcard of the Elite Original Wiener Damen-Orchester  „Austria“, directed by Ant. Altmann. Theree are seven women and two men, again mostly with string instruments, though one woman plays flute and another trombone. There is an upright piano in the background of the small stage. The women have white gowns with long sash ribbons, dark collars, and a kind of vest.

 The caption  reads:
Allerhöchste Anerkennung von Sr. k.u.k.
Hoheit des Erzherzogs Franz v. Salvator
Most Highly Recognized by Sr. k.u.k.
Highness of the Archduke Franz v. Salvator

The postcard was sent from Magdeburg,
the capital city of
Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
on the 20th March 1904.

The caricature of the Damenkapple has qualities that show the artist was very familiar with Austrian women's salon orchestras, but I was still unsure when it might have been produced. The bright colors and free brush lines were not unlike a postcard printed for tourists in the 1970s.

 Then I found this next postcard.

It is another colorful caricature by the same artist, as printed in the lower right corner. It is entitled Ständchen, a German word for a serenade in the form of a song addressed to a beloved. Four bandsmen with trumpets and tubas stand behind an imposing drum major with a broad chest and long baton. At one side is a military officer with a black plumed hat and a sharp Prussian style mustache.

But this postcard confirms that the era of the first card was indeed from the 1900s as this second postcard, which has the same printer marks, B.K.W.I. as the first image, was sent through the post. Despite the rough unclear postmark, the Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef's profile on the green 5 heller stamp is labeled 1908, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

The imperial Austrian military were well known for their splendid uniforms. The bandsmen's light blue trousers and dark blue tunics resemble the uniform of this Bohemian helicon player from Prossnitz that I featured in my May 2016 story called Austrian Plumbing.

The cartoon bandsmen have what looks like a flower or leaflet pinned to their shakos. It resembles the same style on the hats worn by the jolly Austrian bandsmen I featured in a story from March 2018 called Alte Kameraden.

The eye of a talented artist can capture things
that a camera never sees.
It's not just the color of a beard or sash that they observe
but the humor and fun of human nature on display.

* * *
The artist's name was Fritz Schönpflug ( 1873 – 1951),
an Austrian artist who illustrated
the world of his beloved Wien
in thousands of lighthearted postcard caricatures.
Check out this post for more of his work.
Getting Around in Old Wien

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where a picture is always worth a few thousand words.


Barbara Rogers said...

I love the caricatures of the people including what today would be less than flattering bodies. So glad they had a sense of humor!

Postcardy said...

Clever link to the artist theme!

La Nightingail said...

A great collection of women's musical group postcards back when, and I love the caricatures! :)


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