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Lot 135: The spirit of Adah Isaac Menken.
29 October 2016
Yonkers, NY, USALive Auction
Description: The spirit of Adah Isaac Menken. She was one of the sensational figures of the age, like the earlier Lola Montez, or Marilyn Monroe, she was both a sexual icon and someone who was involved with important figures from the sports, theatrical, and literary world. Like Marilyn, she was briefly married to a sports star (the boxer John C. Heenan.) She had a career as a writer, and was an early supporter and a disciple of Walt Whitman. She fascinated many other writers, including Swinburne, and had a relationship with Alexander Dumas (as depicted in a wonderful series of CDV’s.) She was most celebrated as a daring actress, for her seemingly nude scene in Mazeppa. This cabinet card, by Albert Morton, San Francisco, is from a series of “Spiritual Workers.” In the space for the title, this is written in pen: “C. H. Foster, spirit Adah Isaacs Menken, after Mumler.” On Mumler see the chapter “Mumler’s Ghosts” in The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult” (Yale U. Press, 2004.) On p 29 there is an illustration of a CDV by Mumler of Foster and the spirit of Menken. When I googled “C.. H. Foster Adah Isaac Menken” I came upon pages from The Cosmic Relation and Immortality, Vol. 1 by Henry Holt, that has a detailed fascinating description of the séance in which Foster summoned the spirit of Menken. The image in this cabinet card is based on a crayon portrait that is based on the Mumler CDV. There is more advertising on the verso.
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