Annemarie és Jeanette Courtambert

The tragic fate of the Courtambert sisters

Born in misty Bretagne. Their childhood is enveloped in religious bigotry. Yet beneath the Breton bonnets lie hidden two remarkable spirits. They flee to Paris early in life, away from the crossfire between the Sunday lunch and the kitchen range as well as the incomprehensible strictness of their postal officer of a father. First they live a hand-to-mouth existence in domestic service, later becoming known as models in the art world. This is how they reach the studio of Rodin, where the y regularly pose for the old master (in this a large part is played by Camille Claudel, with whom they early enter a firm friendship).
It is there in the forest of Vélizy, in the company of Rodin, as Isadora Duncan dances for the ancient sculptor. They become admirers of the dancer, who recognises their talents and admits them to her dance company. After two years of performing together they leave the ensemble and with that begins an extraordinary, esoteric flight in the cultural circles of Europe.
They are applauded by the pre-Raphaelites and the cultural snobs of Monte Verità, they are present at the night-time séances of Stefan George, and they entrance Rilke and his friends in the gardens of Worpswede. In such circles the Growing City and the curious cultural finds excavated by S. J. Robin have long been a topic of discussion.
Annemarie Courtambert tánca
(S. J. Robin szerint a felvétel valójában Olga Desmondot ábrázolja, Schwerttanz előadása közben.)
A photograph from the Bey Kerim Collection

Annemarie Courtambert at Monte Verità
Bey Kerim Aksaraz in his home
(some scholars believe the photo in reality to depict Lawrence of Arabia)


This group photograph was taken in Vincenza
This group photograph was taken in Vincenza, where S. J. Robin held his lecture on the Growing City in the spring of 1913. S. J. Robin is on the steps with Lady Anne Ashby, the main patron of the diggings, beside him.
The 1913 Vicenza was dedicated to disseminating the excavated parts of the Growing City. However, the conference became the scene of heated debate over the correct reading of the clay tablets. One school of linguists, the so-called "highbrows" (Schulteis, Garbieu and others), postulated a melodic, light sound, while the other group, the so-called "barbarians" (Arkheim, Burlek, Schwarzberg and many others) were on the side of a decidedly low vowel harmony with consonant clusters in the reading. Of course this would have classified the character of the civilisation under debate. The debate was further sharpened by Kowalski-Segner, who produced an anthropological investigation. It was in the midst of this unresolved exchange of words that A. Domanides' now famous question sounded: "I wonder who was told God's real name?" Both camps were in agreement as regards the place names of the neighbouring ethnic group generally referred to as the "unfriendly tribes". For the most part their speech is characterised by imitation of the sounds of natural phenomena. Today his published conference material appears to be a string of seemingly unfounded theories.
NB. R. Kipling may have constructed his Bandar-log, the monkey-people in the Jungle Book, in the knowledge of the material of the debate.
However, one outcome that may be considered to have radiated from the debate is a number of photographs, now of documentary value. It is probable that some of the individuals listening to the lectures attempted to enter contact with the erstwhile dwellers of the Growing City, using the methods known for their use in spiritualist séances. This seems to be indicated by some details in the photos, as well as by the contradictory content of private correspondence describing the séance procedure (the Courtambert sisters' letter to Isadora Duncan in Athens).
Documentary photograph of the beginning of the séance
The photographs are possibly of Annemarie Courtambert, who at the archaeologists' convention in Vicenza attempted to enter contact with the spirits of the city's erstwhile inhabitants through spiritualism. A number of notable personalities were present at the séance.
The following text can be read on the reverse side of Photo No. 1:
Gli sattoscritti confermano l'autenticità della foto di sopra Dario Zaffaroni
notaio il 3. ottobre 1913.

Below it are blurred signatures, among which the following could be identified:)
A. Courtambert, Kowalski-Segner, S. Winter, R. M. Rilke
The Portrait of the man which materialised during the Vicenza Seance
The sole surviving séance accessory is the wall fragment from the Growing City depicting the Horse Daemon