The French postcards of Jean Agélou

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French postcards are small, postcard-sized images, featuring nude or semi-nude women. The erotic cards were produced in great volume, primarily in France, and Jean Agélou was one of the largest publishers of French postcards in the early 20th century.

The postcard experienced a golden period between 1900 and 1920. The cards were not only used for sending, but were also popular collectors’ items. Technological advances in printing technology meant that the cards could be printed on a very large scale. French postcards were not intended to be sent, as they would be refused by the postal service, and they had no correspondence lines on the back. Agélou’s postcards were for collectors and were sold in series of five or 10 by street vendors. Each series contained a model with different poses, and portfolio cards existed that showed small prints of the complete series. From 1914, 85 series of 10 and 36 series of five postcards were listed in a catalogue1.

The several hundred models that posed were recruited in the theatres and nightclubs of Paris, were amateur models or prostitutes. The names of most models are unknown. Jean Agélou is estimated to have made 10,000 images in total2.

Jean Agélou
Jean Agélou (1878–1921) was a French photographer and publisher of erotic postcards and stereoviews during La Belle Époque. Little is known about his life, and no letters or portraits are known of him. The first nude photos that can be attributed with certainty to him were published in the magazine L’Étude Académique in 1905. The photos that can be linked with certainty to the photographer bear the initials or marks JA, GP, Léo and Lydia. From 1913, postcards were also published with the initials GA, which referred to Jean’s younger brother Georges Agélou (1882–1921) who joined his brother’s publishing company. Jean’s photographs are of a high technical and artistic quality. The decorations and romantic backgrounds create an intimate atmosphere and can today be classified as boudoir photography. Jean and Georges died together in a car accident in Autry-le-Châtel on 2 August 1921.


  1. Bourdon, C. and Agélou, J.B. (2006) Jean Agélou: de l’académisme à la photographie de charme, p. 41. ↩︎
  2. Ibid, p. 47. ↩︎