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Pauline Polaire, Belle Epoque Actress, in costume, by Henri Manuel, circa 1900

Gorgeous portrait, in very nice condition of the French actress known as Polaire, circa 1900 by Henri Manuel.

Pauline Polaire (1874-1939) was born Emilie Marie Bouchard, in Agha, Algeria (what was then the French colonial territory of Algiers).

She was a café singer by age 15. It should be noted that what we, in the US think of as a café (often a cozy little street front dining establishment with a limited continental menu, free refills, a glass pie display case on the counter, and an aproned waitress named Ivy who sports a collossal beehive hairdo) but we date ourselves, yeah? :) is NOT the sort of establishment where Polaire began her show business career.

The café, or café-concert, was a place where one could find a good cup of coffee, yes, but also wine, cocktails Americaine, dancing, perhaps a stage with a floor show, etc. In Paris, the sky was the limit, one which comes immediately to mind is La Scala on Boul' de Strasbourg, an establishment that sat 1400 guests, had elaborate indoor gardens, a removeable glass dome for inclement weather, and performances by all the biggest names in showbusiness at that time.

Algiers had been occupied by France for a good 50 years by the time Polaire began performing, with hundreds of thousands of European immigrants having flooded what is still the largest country in Africa, so it is likely that there were some pretty posh, Parisian style cafés around at that time.

Emilie made the move to France in the 1890s, took the name Polaire, and was immortalized in a drawing by Toulouse Lautrec (not doing her career a bit of harm :)

She grew famous, one might even say infamous, for her scintillating performances, lavish mode of dress, attention getting antics, her many lovers, apparently making no distinction between genders in that regard, and her tiny, tiny waist, the result of tight-lacing with a corset (her waist was rumored to have been as narrow as 14 inches, some say 16, made even more dramatic in contrast to her bust which was, apparently 38").

Mlle. Polaire also made a number of silent films in the early days with Maurice Tourneur.

If you would like to hear her sing, follow this link to Youtube:


This isn't of the greatest sound quality, but it's a lot of fun. Rough translation of the opening lines:

"Dominique Angelica says,
I'm madly in love with you
My heart shivers with it,
Would you mix your trembling with mine?

Come, a little
We will, a little
Both, a little
Very happy, a little..."

and so on :) A wonderful song, "Tchique Tchique," (Tchique being a form of quelque, meaning, some, a bit, a few.) recorded in the 20s. We are not French speakers, so please forgive errors in translation. We are merely enthusiasts, and share our efforts with fellow enthusiasts, we hope.

By the way, for a little more, completely unrelated "tchique," check out Elis Regina at her magnificent best here:


A wonderful, and difficult to obtain, image. Please examine our high res scans for detail.

Postage is for first class shipping in a secure photo mailer, and we happily combine shipping on all paper goods. If you purchase two cards, we will refund the postage on the second card, and when you purchase three or more cards from us at the same time, your shipping will be entirely free, except for international orders which, because of sudden increases in international shipping rates will still be charged one card's shipping fees on orders of three or more.

And please come visit our blog at:


where we post biographical and historical tidbits, images of cards and photographs for sale, some already sold but remembered fondly, related images of historical interest and sometimes even images of items that have not yet arrived in the shop, but that are expected to arrive soon, as well as coupon codes, links to other related sites, and more!

Reserved for Daniel. Please do not purchase unless you are Daniel. Thank you.


  • Vintage item from 1900 - 1909
  • Ships worldwide from United States
  • Feedback: 1536 reviews
  • Favorited by: 1 person