Pictorial emotion: the moods of Makowska

I always enjoy sets of photographs where an actor is pictured expressing a variety of emotions: ‘passion’, ‘hatred’, ‘sorrow’, ‘love’, ‘grief’, ‘surprise’, etc. A famous example of this phenomenon is this spread of Florence Lawrence (‘The Biograph Girl’), printed in A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen:


A while ago, I came across an extended example from Italy: a series of postcards of Polish-born actress Elena Makowska conveying a range of sentiments and situations. As today is the 123rd anniversary of Makowska’s birth, let’s take some moments to look at her poses!

Elena Makowska F40839-084 sml2

We shall, Ms. Makowska!

First up, here’s a couple of very diva-esque ones:

Elena Makowska F40839-062 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-067 sml

Here, Ms Helena is haughty and heart-bearing:

Elena Makowska F40839-052 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-058 sml

Now romantic-minded; exiled.

Elena Makowska F40839-089 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-096 sml

Some of the photographs express responses, rather than emotions or situations.

Elena Makowska F40839-091 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-050 sml
“Never!!”; “Perhaps”/”Who knows!”

And even one for those Edgar Allan Poe moments.

Elena Makowska F40839-097 sml

These two reference Makowska’s striking eyes:

Elena Makowska F40839-061 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-0101 sml

This one is an especial showcase for her blue irises.

Elena Makowska F40839-065 sml

And stoned visions of the past …

Elena Makowska F40839-092 sml

“Today, I worship the green god.”

As is common in this type of thing, many of the descriptive captions seem to have been assigned at random. I wouldn’t have picked these two pictures to represent “chagrin”/ “discouragement” and “ennui” …

Elena Makowska F40839-066 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-072 sml

Here is “Thoughts!…” and “Frivolity!”, but wouldn’t a reversal of captions make more sense?

Elena Makowska F40839-088 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-007 sml

Likewise, I think I’d switch these two. Makowska doesn’t look particularly tortured in the left image:

Elena Makowska F40839-063 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-064 sml

There are quite a few postcards with religious imagery or themes.

Elena Makowska F40839-055 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-057 sml
Elena Makowska F40839-059 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-060 sml
Elena Makowska F40839-051 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-054 sml

A couple of close-ups in profile:

Elena Makowska F40839-085 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-093 sml

And a lovely shot of her posed with a vase.

Elena Makowska F40839-069 sml

These postcards are from the collection of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Torino (accession no. F40839). Each is signed with a distinctive ‘MD’/’DM’ logo, but even after checking with the relevant knowledgeable people (Paul of the wonderful resource European Film Star Postcards, and via him, the staff of the MNC), I was unable to find out any information about the photographer or publisher.

Regular readers were introduced to Ms. Makowska in my writeup of Caino (IT 1918) last December, in which I found her unique-looking, but underwhelming as an actress. So I’ll close with these two shots, my favourite of the bunch, where I think she’s genuinely working the camera and having fun. Happy birthday, Ms. Makowska!

Elena Makowska F40839-099 sml  Elena Makowska F40839-100 sml
“To go, or not to go?”; “I love you, I’m coming!”
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6 Responses to Pictorial emotion: the moods of Makowska

  1. I love these! Thank you so much!


  2. Lea S. says:

    Great post, even the sepia tones are gorgeous! I love those early “emotions” photos. That kind of acting easy to make fun of today, but it’s kind of heartwarming to think of a time when it was considered very artistic. :-)


  3. Charles Ramos says:

    Thank you for the beautiful photos of Helena Makowska! She had really beautiful eyes.💓💓I loved watching her in ‘Caino’ last week on YouTube. And I hope to watch more of her surviving films in the very near future!💟


    • Aren’t they wonderful! I saw some Makowska cards when I was on holiday in Italy last year (I can’t remember whether they were from this collection or not!), I wish now I’d bought them!
      Makowska has a decent number of surviving/available titles, luckily – she fares better than some of her contemporaries.


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