Born about 1892
Miss Fernande, my favorite 117 year old lady, was a beautiful model for Jean Agelou in the 1910's and apparently into the 1920's. She lived downtown Paris in a hotel just two doors away from Jean Agelou's studio. Jean Agelou was a well known photographer of portraits, landscapes, and nude postcards. During her modeling days Miss Fernande modeled for Jean Agelou almost exclusivity. She did appear on many other cards published under other market names, but most were Jean Agelou pictures.
Around 1912, Miss Fernande also appeared in a few issues of an art magazine for students named L'Etude Academique. The magazine featured some very beautiful pictures of Miss Fernande and many are the same poses as in the nude postcards.
Miss Fernandís career as a model seemed to be a long one. The evidence is in the pictures. Although Jean Agelou was quite prolific there was no holding back time and as Miss Fernande aged she steadily gained weight. As was everything else about the beautiful woman she gained her weight very gracefully. There is much argument about the postcards of the older Miss Fernande some say that they could not be of her, I think this is mostly because of the confusion over Fernande Barrey. If you follow her age in the postcards it leaves little doubt about the connection between the younger Miss Fernande and a more voluptuous but just as graceful frizzier haired Miss Fernande. I keep saying look at her hands, the way she holds them.
I am a great fan of Bettie Page and was totally captivated by Miss Fernande from the first picture that I saw of her. Miss Fernande, the 1910's Bettie Page, can pose with the grace that only a couple other models have ever been able to achieve.
By the account in Ferruccio Farina's book published in 1989 called 'Venus Unveiled; Miss Fernande was a prostitute. Farina said that the archives of the Paris police department, kept a record of all the "horizontal women", and undeniably documented a Fernande, with no last name given, as one of the known 6,500 Paris prostitutes. In 1912, her age is listed as twenty.
Miss Fernande was a business woman with a flare for marketing. When "French Postcards" became in vogue and were in demand by Americans, Miss Fernande stamped her name and hotel address, on the back of her nude postcards. These "business" cards were left in cafes and other various locations to attract American clientele. Little did she know, that she would still be in demand almost 100 years later.
During this time in Paris, many young women went by the name Fernande. Two of the most famous were Fernande Olivier and Fernande Barrey. People have tried to link these two to the beautiful woman that posed for the postcards. There is no information to connect either of these ladies to this Miss Fernande.
Many people still think that Miss Fernande was Pablo Picasso's first lover, Fernande Olivier, also known as "La Belle Fernande". From the studies and pictures that I have seen I would have to conclude that they are not the same woman, the known dates and the existing pictures are too compelling to think otherwise.
In Ferruccio Farina's book he said that he believed Miss Fernande was Fernande Barrey, the wife of a well-known artist, Tsuguharu Foujita. This in doubt because Fernande Barrey was an Artist in her own right and had many accounts of her life. There is no record of her ever posing for Jean Agelou and having postcards made. None the less the many stories of Fernande and Tsuguharu's meeting and marriage weave a very romantic tale.
"Miss Fernande still remains a beautiful mystery in a beautiful time. We may have to face the fact that we may never know conclusively who she really was and be happy for the wonderful images she left behind."