Charles Reutlinger (1816 – 1888) was founder of the highly successful eponymous Paris photographic establishment, in business from 1850 to 1937, which was known for its portraits, theatrical cartes de visite and cabinet cards, as well as erotica and, later, fashion and proto-surrealist photographs.
By the time Reutlinger was 18, he was already known to be practicing the art of silhouette portraiture, which his aunt, Madame la Conseiller Weiss, had been doing professionally since around 1820 in Karslrhue. He moved to Stuttgart around 1835, where he met Georg Friedrich Brandseph, an established silhouette artist, who was among the early adapters to the burgeoning field of daguerreotype portraiture. He established his own photographic studio in Stuttgart at 8 Furtbachstrasse by 1849.
Reutlinger certainly arrived in Paris with some amount of portrait photography business and technical acumen already, since, by 1851, his photographic advertisement was running in the publication La Lumiиre, offering, as well, to instruct others in the art of “daguerreotype on paper.”
From the early 1850s, Reutlinger was a prolific producer of carte de visite portraits of the notable figures in cosmopolitan Paris, including politicians and royalty, musical celebrities, and theatrical stars. His atelier was decorated elaborately, with the furnishings and decor serving as settings and props in the portraits.
Reutlinger’s early style was somewhat distinctively archaic, in that it drew upon the formal conventions of the silhouette portraits by preferring to vignette bust portraits, rather than the full length portraits preferred by Disderi and other contemporaries. Reutlinger became a member of the Salon Francaise de photographie in 1862, and his more beaux arts photographic works were included in their exhibitions throughout the 1860s and 1870s.
The costumed actresses, by far the most popular of the images produced in that era, naturally evolved into more and more erotic imagery, with an emphasis on actresses in the body stockings that were the theatrical facsimiles for nudity. This, in turn, gave way to Reutlinger photographing nudes and beauties in their underclothes, and making them available as a series called “des petites femmes de Paris.” The fact that this was a thriving industry initially particular to Paris during the period is evident by the fact that erotic pictures continued to be referred to as “French postcards” well into the 20th century.
It is not clear how many of these nudes were made by Charles and how many were by his younger brother. So it is very well possible that some of the images shared here are in fact produces by his brother.
Models who poses for Charles Reutlinger were Lina Cavalieri, Cléo de Mérode, and Carolina Otto.
Gabrielle Elluini (described as the richest moll in the world’ with an amassed fortune of ‘one hundred thousand pounds sterling’ – equivalent to a whopping £11,000,000 in today’s money, in the handbook ‘The Pretty Women of Paris‘) photographed by Reutlinger.