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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Dining Out in Old Wien

02 April 2021

It's a situation that everyone
has probably experienced at least once.
You attend a grand banquet,
in this case a special occasion
for a group of Austrian army officers,
and you notice that the server, here an orderly,
displays rather slovenly habits of personal hygiene.

As the poor fellow wipes his nose with his hand,
some of the generals take notice with a look of disgust.
 Ha, welche Lust, Soldat zu sein!
What a pleasure to be a soldier!


The common soldier of Austria however,
does not dine on white linen
with fancy plates and silverware.
His idea of a good meal involves
every man for himself 
making an assault on a food wagon,
grabbing a stein of beer
and a couple handfuls of bread and wurst.

These lighthearted postcards were produced
by the
Viennese artist Fritz Schönpflug (1873 – 1951),
whose artwork has become a favorite of mine.
He had a great talent to see the humor in a situation
and compose a painting of it
that needed no translation
to get the laugh.
 Unlike the photographers of his time,
an artist like Schönpflug worked in a world of color.
And his caricatures give us a better idea
of the colorful uniforms and dresses
of old Wien during the first decades of the 20th century.

 * * *
Wien, or Vienna, was the capital of a vast empire
and the center of a sophisticated culture.
In this postcard, Schönpflug shows us
a typical quartet of two young officers
with two attractive ladies
together under an umbrella
outside a café enjoying a morning coffee.
The caption describes it as a military tactic.

In gedeckter position
In covered position

This postcard was sent from Graz, Austria on 27 October 1912.
The message to Herrn Hans Maresch is difficult to read,
but I think is comes from a woman named RoseAnna.
In my collection of Austrian and German postcards from this era
the majority, maybe 95%, were sent by men.
This may explain why Schönpflug's postcards
often have masculine subjects like soldiers, horses, and athletes.


* * *

 This next postcard has nearly the same café setting,
but this time the table for four is a family group.
A father dressed in an army officer's uniform
reads the daily newspaper,
while his august wife
oversees her two sons.
The older one, a junior officer,
affects a nonchalant attitude smoking a cigarette.
His younger brother, a small boy who also wears
a military uniform, attacks a frothy chocolatey drink with zeal.

Die ärarische Familie.
The Aryan family.

The caption doesn't quite explain the amusing scene
as there is an Austrian sub-text that hides the joke from us.

This postcard was sent in a letter
and dated 13 February 1909

* * *
As I've written before in Two Wise Guys,
humor, like comedy, is a very ephemeral art.
Schönpflug's cartoon style
tells us that his scenes are funny.
And we can still enjoy most of his delightful wit,
and admire the charm of his characters.
But lost in time are layers of subtle satire,
waggish teasing, and sharp mocking
that his Viennese society of 1910 recognized
but we in the 21st century can only guess at.

 As it happens to be Easter this weekend,
I'll finish with another postcard by Fritz Schönpflug,
an example of his seasonal holiday themes.


There are no Easter bunnies or Easter eggs,
but there is some kind of symbolism going on here.
A young woman brandishes some springtime shrubbery cuttings
that are festooned with six small gentlemen seeking her attention.
 I suppose it's about love and springtime in old Wien.

Fröhliche Ostern!
Happy Easter!


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where every mealtime is fun time.


Liz Needle said...

Schonpflug's humour is a delight. I could pore over these cards over and over and find new titbits to giggle at every time. Where on earth do you find such treasures?

Liz Needle said...

Maybe the poor waiter in the first card didn't have one of those magnificent moustaches to catch whatever he was wiping up.

Wendy said...

I wonder if there is an Austrian equivalent to the idea of "stringing men along" that involves keeping them on a stick.

Molly of Molly's Canopy said...

These illustrations are just delightful! Except for perhaps the first one, given our current need for mask-wearing and social distancing. I agree with Liz -- each of these jocular illustrations deserves to be studied in detail. Happy Easter!

DawnTreader said...

Interesting postcards! Coincidentally, I was looking at some old Easter postcards for my Sepia post too, and on one of those, sent to my great-aunt from her brother, he wished her a happy Easter with "many pretty boys" (there was one on the card). Looks like the lady on one of your cards caught a whole bunch! ;)

La Nightingail said...

Love the postcards as usual, and a neat match to the prompt! His drawings are always so colorful and candid. :)

Susan said...

I love the facial expressions and colors.

Barbara Rogers said...

I loved seeing the art of Schonpflug...and especially the colors he used. I'm glad you included some guesses as to where the humor might have been...since we weren't there then. I purchase lots of cards each year, and my favorites are by local artists, as opposed to Halmark.


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