The Grim-Looking Ladies

Having decided to get over the various generous offers of intimate and intensely satisfying (guaranteed!) services that are the only comments I get these days, here I am sharing yet another one of my finds with the universe.

I do love flea markets, and I usually end up leaving with at least one abandoned memory that appeals to me enough to make me take it home. This time, it was what I like to call “the grim-looking ladies”:

Photo-postcard from 1917 (as the brief dedication on the verso declares) sent (or directly handed) to a relative in sign of respect and affection. I fished it from a sea of photo-postcards, because this one just seemed special. It depicts 3 or 4 generations of women, unless the small child is actually a boy, which wouldn’t much surprise me, since it’s hard to decide sometimes, seeing the androgynous nature of clothes and haircuts for children at that time. At a closer look, one can also deduce that the ladies in the picture must have been well-off: they are wearing quite a lot of jewellery (not all of it readily visible in my re-photograph, I’m afraid, so you’ll probably have to take my word for it), including pendants, cross necklaces, earrings and a multitude of rings at a time when most people probably couldn’t afford white bread or any bread at all. Why, however, is there not a man in the picture? Was the pater familias a military man and therefore off fighting in the war? Possibly. Was/Were the man/men in the family all recruited by the army anyway? Probably. Might this account for the ladies’ (and especially the child’s) grim expressions? Possibly. However it may be, they are certainly a delicious assortment of mixed feelings and suchlike.

Here, allow me to indulge in a bit of amateur physiognomy.

This lady looks like she’s the oldest and happiest one of all. She doesn’t look like she cares too much about whoever’s been sent on the front, she’s just kind of trying to enjoy her life. Also, the way she has noncommittally thrust her hands in her pockets and her posture almost makes her look like she’s shrugging – it’s as if she were saying “that’s how life is and, frankly, I can’t complain”.

This lady looks kind of… distressed, to say the least. She’s not focusing on the camera, she’s just staring into the distance and she’s holding her hands a bit like I do when I’m nervous or there’s something on my mind. She’s also slumping a little, so she’s deffinitely not making an effort to look good in the picture (and photographs must have been all important at that time, since “photo sessions” were quite rare events), meaning that her mind is probably otherwise occupied.

This one, judging by her hollow-eyed expression and the big, sturdy cross necklace, is the family “nun”. I would say she’s very religious, and, possibly, superstitiously so. I think I dislike her, but she fascinates me. Could she be engaged? She’s wearing a ring on her left ring finger, but it might just be a coincidence. Also, why is she the only one carrying a handbag? What’s she got so important that she has to be carrying around at all times? Or maybe she’s just trying to be posh (see large headbow as well), which completely crashes with her religiosity and makes me dislike her even more.

The child looks like she (he? I really can’t tell) would rather be anywhere else. Tightly-crossed fingers and crossed legs tell of a defensive position: “I’m not happy with this, go away”. Is this child’s father or older brother or both away on the front? She (or he) certainly looks miserable.

Well, then, I wish I had more old photos to talk about, but I don’t at the moment. Wish me luck though, I might be able to find some more soon.

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