Of a Young Woman Who Is Called “Queen of Valor.”
[Paris Cor. Baltimore American.]
A few weeks there appeared some alluring advertisements which were especially attractive to those Parisians who love excitement, and who had their appetite for such things tickled by the races of the Rue Pergolese. The attraction this time was a woman, Donna Tancreda, who, made up to resemble a statue, was to await, motionless, in the area, the assault of the bull, and to conquer it by her immobility. At the last moment this performance, which was to have taken place at Enghion, was forbidden. It did, however, take place in Roubaix. Here is an exact account of what happened:
At a given signal from the President, the doors of the arena opened and a magnificent carriage appeared, all draped in red velvet fringed with gold. In this carriage sat Senorita Mercedes del Barte, alias Donna Tancreda.
The “Queen of Valor” is dressed completely in white. Her face and her hair are powdered. The carriage stops just in front of the presiding party, and she gets out smiling and bowing and throws off her mantle, talking with the ushers while the attendants arrange in the middle of the arena a pedestal of wood about two feet high. When all is ready the impresario addresses the public and begs them to observe the most rigorous silence during the performance. This is indispensable. Then Donna Tancreda mounts the pedestal, helped by the matadora. She crosses her arms and faces the door from which the bull will emerge. The woman looks exactly like a marble statue. The arena is empty. All the ushers have disappeared behind the barriers and shelters. The deepest silence reigns in the vast amphitheater. Half a minute passes thus. Then the door opens and one sees tin the shadow the enormous head of the bull Gitano. The spectators hardly breathe. Many of the women cover their eyes with their hands. It is a terrible moment. The bull is a superb animal, with a powerful neck and long, straight horns. He raises his head, looks around, and at once bounds upon the white statue.
It is with the greatest difficulty that one can restrain a cry of horror, one’s sensations are too painful and a long endurance of such emotion would be unbearable. Donna Tancreda is as rigid as marble. The last movement would be fatal to her.
The bull starts back, looks at his strange adversary, and then with a terrible bound rushes up to the pedestal. Anxiety is at its height. But once more the bull stops short without striking. He draws back a few feet, and, taking advantage of this, Donna Tancreda jumps down and rushes behind a screen, while the ushers draw off the bull. The people breathe again. A long sigh escapes from all, and then thunders of applause are heard, and the “Queen of Valor” gets a tremendous ovation.
Donna Tancreda, who was born in Paris, has appeared with success at Barcelona, Valentia, Castile, Madrid, Seville and for the first time in France at Roubaix.
The Enquirer [Cincinnati, OH] 18 August 1901: p. 4
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What a very curious career—to be, essentially, a professional statue, a tableau vivant of one. The venue sounds most disagreeable: first there are the insects, which invariably accompany bovines and their excretions. Then there is the smell and the incontinent spittle of the charging creature. And the damage to the complexion from the concealing powder and the the sun is painful to contemplate. One wonders that the young lady was not carried off by sunstroke or that she did not as a precaution wear a helmet and appear in the character of Athena. That, of course, would have taken much of the fun out of it….
Mrs Daffodil supposes it cannot be that much different from being an artist’s live model, where one must stay very still and one’s virtue, rather than one’s life, is threatened by the amorous artist who fancies himself a bull of sorts. There are also persons who pursue this statuesque vocation by posing as wind-up tin soldiers, or automata, startling the public as they “come to life.” Mrs Daffodil, who always thinks practically, wonders if they can obtain insurance for the invariable injuries that will occur. And, of course, there are the Queen’s Guards, enjoined to immobility during sentry duty, but they, at least, are allowed to carry weapons to ward off the predatory, “selfie”-taking public.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.