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Title: "You are quiet ..." advertisement for the National Bank of Commerce and Industry.
Author : KOLLAR François (1904 - 1979)
Dimensions: Height 24 - Width 18
Technique and other indications: Photographic print from a black and white negative. For an advertisement for the National Bank of Commerce and Industry, "You are quiet ...", circa 1938
Storage location: MuCEM website
Contact copyright: © Ministry of Culture / Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - © RMN-Grand Palais - Copyright management François Kollar
Picture reference: 10-506095 / 71L00325
"You are quiet ..." advertisement for the National Bank of Commerce and Industry.
© Ministry of Culture / Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais - RMN-Grand Palais - Copyright management François Kollar
Publication date: May 2011
Mistrust of banks in the 1930s
The Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC), an institution of the Parisian financial center, was quickly drawn to the brink of bankruptcy by the repercussions of the crash of 1929. In 1931, the mistrust of it was such that it lost 75% of its deposits. However, due to the combination of the uncertainties of the crisis and more murky realities such as financial scandals or “the venality of financial journalism” (Jean-Noël Jeanneney, Hidden Money. Business circles and political powers in 20th century Francee century, p. 205-230.), Banks remain subject to caution in the eyes of depositors before the war, which is reflected in particular by high volatility of deposits. The stake is therefore major, for the bankers, to communicate on the confidence which it is possible to place in their establishments.
Snapshot of the serene saver
The photograph is a view taken in an opulent city interior, with a fireplace adorned with rosettes and surmounted by a mirror used here for an interesting reverse shot game. François Kollar has taken this process elsewhere, for example for the portrait of Coco Chanel in his suite at the Ritz (1937 advertisement). In the reflection appear a veiled window, a work table and an electric projector, a modern element in this rather conventional bourgeois interior.
In the center of the image, a pipe in the mouth, a middle-aged man comfortably seated in a worn leather club chair. Seen from a slight angle, he wears a gray striped jacket, a bow tie, thin glasses, patent shoes. He reads Paris-Evening, a very widely distributed daily which circulated nearly two million copies around 1938. Faithful to its editorial line, the newspaper places great emphasis on news items and advertising.
A historical trompe-l'oeil
"You are quiet ...": the slogan of the advertisement is intended to reassure the honest savings client of the B.N.C.I., placid reader of Paris-Evening and not a frantic little carrier. This presentation of things is quite astonishing when we know the origins of the B.N.C.I. and its aggressive expansion methods: this firm has indeed "maintained" since its creation "a sulphurous reputation as a company disrespectful of acquired positions, cartel agreements, good interbank morals" (Hubert Bonin, The World of French Bankers in the XXe century, p. 97.).
The tone of the advertising message, undoubtedly shifted with regard to the geopolitical situation at the time, makes it more widely resonate with all expressions, if not of a denial, at least of a lightness vis-à-vis the perils that accumulate. As Ray Ventura sang in 1935, wasn’t the France of the time the country where we reassure people with "Everything is fine, Madame la Marquise"?
- national loans
Alain BELTRAN and Pascal GRISET, The French economy, 1914-1945, Paris, Armand Colin, 1994.
Hubert BONIN, The World of French Bankers in the 20th Century, Brussels, Complex, 2000.
Jean-Noël JEANNENEY, Hidden Money. Business circles and political powers in 20th century France, Paris, Le Seuil, 1984.
Jean RIVOIRE, History of the bank, Paris, P.U.F., 1992.
To cite this article
François BOULOC, "Mistrust of banks"