Monday, May 16, 2011

Savoir Fact (Or Fiction)

Ah! Madame Rubinstein, how much did we really know about her? Everything we practically knew about her was either invented or embellished by Madame, so that it was hard to know where fact left off and fiction began. Read her autobiography and you would be forgiven for thinking that she was well born, well educated, and a genius where it came to the formulation of new skin care preparations. One thing was certain, however that she gave the illusion of all these things with savoir faire, as seen below in the series of photos of Madame, playing the role of chemist, in her laboratory and factory, or as he called them her ‘kitchens’.

Story goes according to Madame that she was born (we know that much, but when is under debate) in Cracow Poland (Fact) to a wealthy wholesale food broker (Fiction?). Her mother supposedly had a strong interest in feminine beauty and again taught her young daughter the important lessons of looking after one’s skin. Even more critical was the 12 jars of moisturizing cream from a chemist Jacob Lykusky (no records have been found for his existence) that she packed in her luggage when venturing forth to Australia in the later half of the 19th century. Supposedly after making her fortune in Australia she was able to ‘study’ with the best dermatologists and chemists that Europe had to offer. Whether she did or not the photographs below gives one the impression that Madame knew what she was doing and took a hands on approach that gave her company and advertising copy the personal touch. Women were more than happy to buy her products after seeing Madame at work.

Fact of fiction, she knew what she was doing when posing for photographs like these. She was selling an image and sell it she did!


  1. Very interesting- Those photos are marketing genius- I agree, she knew how to appeal to her clients.

  2. A very savvy lady indeed. I read that she once said "There are no ugly women, just lazy ones". That's motivating, right?

    Your blog is different than many of the other ones that I read- I truly enjoy it! I'm giving you the Versatile Blogger Award- read my post today for the details :)

  3. I've always been intrigued by people who "invent" themselves. Madame Rubinstein certainly did. Another that comes to mind is Cary Grant. But then, if we live our lives well, we're all becoming somebody new.

  4. Helena is fascinating for so many reasons. But so many in the beauty industry...Laszlo, Arden, Lauder, etcetera mythologized themselves. Rubinstein was by far the most interesting, and I also feel she created the most luxurious and therefore aspirational image. I think that is part of the some concoction of paraffin and rose water which costs pennies, and making a fortune doing it.

    The photo of her juicing cucumbers is hilarious. She looks mesmerized by the process.

  5. don't kid yourself, she's cooking borscht in that pot.

  6. She could teach today's marketeers a thing or two!

    Norma, it is either that or chilled cucumber soup!


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