This is an artfully decorated album issued by the French biscuit manufacturer LU (formerly known as Lefèvre-Utile), entitled "Album des célébrités contemporaines publié par Lefèvre-Utile, Nantes". It contains forty-eight chromolithographed cards featuring famous figures from the arts; each card, embossed with silver or gold, bore a black-and-white photograph portrait of the celebrity along with a relevant colour image and a quotation from the celebrity themselves in praise of LU biscuits. There are also eight landscape cards by painter Luigi Loir at the end. The celebrity cards were issued by LU on its packets of biscuits in 1901 as a publicity stunt, and were meant to be collected. The company also produced the albums to house them.
This album contains cards of the following celebrities:
Actors: Sarah Bernhardt, Eugénie Segond-Weber, Jane Hading, Gabrielle Réjane, Constant Coquelin (two different cards), Eugène Silvain, Léonie Yahne, Ève Lavallière, Suzanne Desprès, Félix Galipaux, Jules Leitner, and August Mévisto;
Singers: Meyrianne Héglon, Marcelle Lender, Lina Landouzy, Lucienne Bréval, Berthe Soyer, Théodore Botrel, and Jeanne Raunay;
Dancers: Carlotta Zambelli and Cléo de Mérode;
Playwrights: Victorien Sardou and Georges Feydeau;
Composers: Jules Massenet, Alexandre Georges, Raoul Pugno, and Gabriel Pierné;
Painters: Lucius Rossi, Delphin Enjolras, Hippolyte Berteaux, Paul Chocarne-Moreau, Madeleine Lemaire, Albert Guillaume, Fernand Cormon, Henri Harpignies, Ferdinand Roybet, Albert Matignon, and Jean Rameau;
Illustrators: Benjamin Rabier and Jules Grün;
Writers: Anatole France, Jean Richepin, François Coppée, and Victor Margueritte;
Explorers: Gabriel Bonvalot and Louis-Gustave Binger;
Philanthropist: Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, duchesse d’Uzès.
Eight landscape-format cards featuring scenes of Paris by Luigi Loir (1845-1916) are included at the end.
Biographical / Historical
The French company LU (called Lefèvre-Utile for the first 40 years of its existence) is a manufacturer brand of biscuits which started in Nantes, France and is now present internationally. It was created in 1846 by Jean-Romain Lefèvre, who was joined by his spouse and partner Isabelle Utile in 1850. Together they had a luxury pastry shop in Nantes, selling Biscuit rose de Reims. In 1882, their son Louis Lefèvre-Utile bought his parents' company and decided to industrialise and scale up production. In 1886 he created the Petit Beurre, still to this day one of the brand's flagship products, before founding the LU company in 1887 with his brother Ernest.
Louis Lefèvre-Utile and his successors knew the importance of marketing and paid a great deal of attention to advertising. They would employ the best artists to work on posters and packaging, and advertisement campaigns. In 1901 they began to issue, on their packets of biscuits, beautiful chromolithographed cards featuring famous French figures from the arts. The cards could be collected and kept in albums also sold by LU.