Main page Contest Historical background Women's fashion Men's fashion Modjeska Curiosities E-learning Other
Queen of a modern publicity
Costumes and dresses
Teaching of the Art of Women's Tailoring
RECONSTRUCTIONS: Description of Dresses and Patterns
Crinoline for the role of Barbara Radziwiłł (1865)
Crinoline with velvet ribbons (1865)
Crinoline in stripes (1868)
Crinoline with meanders (1869)
Riding Habit (1870)
Bustle ball gown - one (1871)
Bustle ball gown - two (1871)
Mary Stuart (1872)
Princess style with flowers (1878)
Julia (1878)
Cleopatra (1880)
Princess style with fur (1880)
Princess style black and white (1882)
Bustle gown with tassels (1884)
White bustle (1885)
Bustle with saber (1886)
Beaded ball dress (1891)
Art nouveau with buttons (1898)
Swimsuit (1900)
Classic art nouveau (1903)
Modjeska – queen of a modern publicity
Helena Modjeska understood well the power of publicity. Second half of XIX century was a period of social transition and wealth accumulation by burghers. It was also a time of expansion for popular press containing just like nowadays myriad advertisements of varied products. Rapidly growing fortunes of industrialists required new approach to markets and sales. On the other hand, modern society of which most basic material needs were satisfied, could indulge in selecting from among multitude of competing products. This was the world a young actress faced and she did her best to promote her skills as they were yet another product.
Helena Modrzejewska w Tygodniku Powszechnym z 1880 r. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Reklama kremu Recamier. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Mydła z linii Modjeska firmy Larkin. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Proszek do zębów linii Modjeska firmy Larkin - reklama w folderze i buteleczka. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia.
Already in Poland her photos appeared in shop windows and candies were being wrapped in papers imprinted with her image. However only in America Madame Helena encountered truly modern marketing techniques of the kind we in post-communist Poland are learning only since 20 years. Townhouses in New York, first city which she visited were covered with adverts top to bottom. Here the only chance for her to survive was to entrust herself to a manager who in turn was inventing all manners of promoting her, sometimes seemingly absurd.
Modjeska first hesitated but then went for it. She learnt to freely share stories such as of priceless necklaces she supposedly received from a Czar of Russia or of a unique Indian wrap made of cashmere supposedly gift from a Russian princess. Famed necklace was a fake and worth thirty dollars rather than three hundred thousand. When a lady, member of her fun club, gave her a little dog as a gift, her manager ordered her to show off with him every now and then. To call attention to her extravaganza he persuaded her to acquire two small alligators, whom she was decorating by tiding ribbons on their necks and whom she called Hansel and Gretel. As if this was not extravagant enough she was supposedly shooting to a target in her hotel room while being interviewed by a young journalist by the name of Pulitzer. After all she needs to practice shooting before her show and a hotel room is just a right place!
The attention of a public was also drawn to the fact that countess from Europe was carless with her jewelry. Hence from time to time press was electrified by a gossip of Modjeska losing a precious piece of jewelry. Her husband although of aristocratic origin did not have a right to use a title of count. Modjeska however was using it regardless, as such a title was indeed very helpful for publicity. As a result Americans were flocking at theatres’ cash registers for a chance to see on stage a real countess from Europe.
Modjeska Jacket - reklama w folderze. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Pocztówki ze zdjęciami posiadłości Modrzejewskiej Arden w Kalifornii. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Karta do gry z wizerunkiem Modrzejewskiej, jako królowej. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Perfumy linii Modjeska firmy Larkin - reklama w folderze i buteleczka. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia.
Half of women in attendance were there to marvel at her clothes. Hence for a good reason clothes and accessories manufacturers asked Modjeska to allow them to label their merchandise with her name or to forward a referral letter. Ever more frequent were newspaper ads for a Modjeska jacket, Modjeska hat, gloves, corset or shoes. Modjeska is an English form of her stage name (polish: Modrzejewska). Modjeska wore on stage dresses and coats sawn in the famous fashion houses to promote them. However in those days celebrities were not paid for such a form of advertisement. It was assumed that benefits are balanced with product gaining recognition and celebrity’s name becoming ever more popular as it appears in association with a product. Nowadays that would be unthinkable and we all know that actors are paid very high rates for appearing in ads. Were Modjeska to receive today’s rates for advertising she would be a millionaire.
Mydełka linii Modjeska firmy Larkin. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Kalendarze reklamujące linię kosmetyków Modjeska firmy Larkin. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Kilka stron z folderu promującego kosmetyki linii Modjeska firmy Larkin. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Buteleczki po talku do ciała i perfumach linii Modjeska firmy Larkin. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia.
One of most renowned products named after her were Modjeska cosmetics of Larkin - a pioneering and widely popular US mail order house. Cosmetics were being ordered from a catalogue. Modjeska line of cosmetics consisted of perfumes, soaps, powders, creams, tooth powder and body talc. Calendars were printed in color to advertise this line of cosmetics. In her letter from 1889 to owner of Larkin mail order house actress gave her thanks for cosmetics she received. This means that a gift of cosmetics was the only way the company thanked her for using her name. Modjeska line of Larkin cosmetics was being produced up till sixties in the twentieth century. Till the day company was shut.
A Modjeska sets of porcelain tableware containing fifty six pieces were produced. One could buy a deck of cards with images of Madame Helen or collect little cardboard portraits of her sold with Duke’s Cigarettes. Actress was also promoting Waterman’s pen by writing in a paper of how content she was by its performance. Postcards with pictures of her California estate were being sold, a cruise ship named after her.
Obrazek do kolekcjonowania sprzedawany z paczkami papierosów i fotografia, na której wzorowano rycinę. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Obrazek do kolekcjonowania sprzedawany z paczkami papierosów i fotografia, na której wzorowano rycinę. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Obrazek do kolekcjonowania sprzedawany z paczkami papierosów i fotografia, na której wzorowano rycinę. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia. Pocztówka reklamująca parowiec wycieczkowy o nazwie Modjeska. - Kolekcja Krzysztofa Ciepłego, Kalifornia.
Most amazingly, even today there are products in the US labeled with her name. Since her time Modjeska Caramels are still manufactured. Two American companies claim the same legendary story. A local confectioner in a small town asked Modjeska who was performing there if he could call his confection The Modjeska’s. She gracefully agreed and gave him a photo of her with autograph. The photo was being displayed in the shop window of that confectionery for many years. Today there are a number of companies manufacturing Modjeska’s caramels. Bauer’s Candies Inc. is exclusively manufacturing those using original nineteenth century receipt. Those are typical American kind of candy: marshmallow center dipped into a creamy caramel.
Popular bicycle manufacturer Felt recently introduced a new women cruiser bicycle Modjeska. Her signature is painted on chain guard of the bike. Helena Modjeska is an important figure for Orange county, California where prize can be won in Modjeska horse race. Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa annually awards Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award for those who contributed to cultural life of Orange County. A „Modjeska Theatre” in Milwaukee, Illinois established a year after her death and named in her honor is still in operation today.
Another respected American company takes its name after her. A son of a great actress Ralph Modjeski became a bridge designer and together with a partner established a company that until this day deals with constructing bridges over wide rivers of America. The company is called Modjeski & Masters.
Numerous sites in southern California are named after Modjeska: peak summit, canyon and a park. In Anaheim there is a statue of her – the only one anywhere in the world. That begs a question where in Poland we could find such a live memories and memorabilia of her? It’s worth reminding how self-conscious and modern person Helena Modjeska was. We tend to forget that XIX century was a time of incredibly rapid development, development at a pace equal to the pace of development of a country in which this exceptional woman lived. Modjeska was fitting well in this era’s momentum as she was able to run ahead at full speed - which she loved the most.
© The Wilanów Palace Museum 2011. All rights reserved.