14 February 2020

Jules Richard Atrium Nudes

Erotic Photos from La Belle Époque

Jules Richard Atrium Nudes - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

Erotic photography is almost as old as photography itself. Stereoscopic images of nude females were made by photographers like Auguste Belloc and Félix-Jacques Moulin in the 1850s. Erotic images became widely available in the beginning of the 20th century.

The humiliating defeat of France in the French-Prussian war of 1870 was followed by a period of political stability. Prosperity increased, there were many technological innovations and the cultural and artistic climate flourished. This period was characterised by optimism. After the First World War the French looked back on this period with melancholy and it became known as La Belle Époque (the beautiful era). It lasted from 1871 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Although it was still mainly a prudish society, the period was characterised by a more free sexual moral. Life was celebrated in the nightclubs of Paris and street vendors sold postcards with erotic images made by Jean Agélou. These French Postcards were not meant to be sent (they would be banned from mail delivery), but were souvenirs for tourists or cherished by voyeurs and bon vivants who enjoyed the good things of life.

French Postcard by Jean Agélou
French Postcard by Jean Agélou

In the 1890s, stereo photography received a new impulse. This was mainly inspired by the innovations of Jules Richard. His introduction of new glass formats and a product line around the Vérascope stereo camera were decisive for the success of stereo photography at the beginning of the 20th century in France.

The Atrium Collection

Jules Richard was also a passionate photographer. He built an Atrium [1] at Rue Melingue in Paris and used it as a photo studio. He photographed nude females in an ancient Greek setting. Greek mythology was a source of inspiration for many artists and became a fashion at the end of the 19th century. It also helped to make nude photography more acceptable. It resulted in a collection of more than seven thousand erotic stereoviews, mainly in the 45x107 glass format. The intimacy of viewing an image through the lenses of a stereoscope and the three-dimensional viewing experience were ideal for erotic photography.

Jules Richard Atrium Nudes
Number 110266
45x107 glass stereoview by Vérascope Richard
Jules Richard Atrium Nudes

Jules Richard Atrium Nudes
Number 160974
45x107 glass stereoview by Vérascope Richard

Most of the images were photographed by Jules Richard himself, others by a select circle of friends. The images were made inside the Atrium and in its gardens. The models were often dancers in the Parisian nightclubs like the Moulin Rouge but at the time it was also common for artists to use prostitutes. The images are technically and artistically of high quality and stand out from the more explicit amateur images of that time.

[1] An open central court of a Roman house, providing light and ventilation to the interior.
Vérascope Richard Nudes
Number 135423
45x107 glass stereoview by Vérascope Richard
Vérascope Richard Nudes
Number 34923
45x107 glass stereoview by Vérascope Richard
Vérascope Richard Nudes
Number 107133
45x107 glass stereoview by Vérascope Richard

The erotic images in my collection were part of the acquisition of a Taxiphote stereoscope. It's not unusual that a collection of images is part of the sale of a stereo viewer. Most of the time these are photos made by the original owner. It's nice to view these images because you travel a hundred year back in time, but usually the quality isn't very high and they can be compared to today's snapshots. I was pleasantly surprised that this acquisition contained no less than 74 erotic images.

References:

  • Stereo nudes 1850-1930, S. Nazerieff, 1985
  • L'Atrium et autres délires photographiques, A. Dupouy, 2010
  • French postcard via Wikipedia