I first saw a tiny, tiny version of this photo overback in 2005 or 2006 one day when I had logged into my netflix account; it was in was one of those side bars where they display the top 3 or 4 or 5 people who have tastes similar to mine. A cropped version of the pale faced woman above was the icon/avatar representing an individual whose tastes were 80% similar to mine (although having read her movie reviews over the past two years I have concluded that her picks are much, much weirder!) The photo intrigued me from the start, but there is no way to reach out to people through netflix - they don’t display emails, they do not have a messaging system or forum…it’s a very private, secure venue.
There was something in the person’s profile though, which lead me to a blog (again sans contact info), which lead me to an eBay auction through which I did finally contact the netflixian. To my disappointment, the woman had no idea who the lady in the icon was, she had found an old postcard which she scanned into the computer and that was all she knew (at least I think that’s what happened, it was two years ago and I think eBay cleared out my inbox)
I searched high and low…which was difficult because I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for. I thought perhaps she was an actress in a German Expressionist Film or something similar, but no one resembling her ever turned up in any of my searches. After two years I had all but given up, and then one day about two months ago, I stumbled across the full size version (above) on a visual bookmarking site. I have found that a lot of folks who use these sites are not very conscientious about citing sources - 1 person reblogs or reposts it from another, and another, and another, and somehow through accident (or sometimes, I suspect, intentionally) the original source gets lost. Or perhaps was never even there to begin with because I honestly don’t think people give a crap. If it’s pretty and sparkly that’s all they need to know. Sources? Credits? Artist? Pfft!
Anyhow, I finally followed it back to a french-speaking blog, and from there I discovered the original source of the image:
The NYPL Digital Gallery Archives. Which is not to say I found the image itself, I just knew it was somewhere on that site…which happens to house a TON of images, over 700,ooo!
To make a long story short - I found her. She is/was Maria Germanova, of the Moscow Art Theatre, and this is from The Blue Bird, (L’Oiseau bleu ), a 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. I have written about her elsewhere here and here.