Sunday, 27 May 2007

"After baths", high shoes, black and white,
Bouchard the splendid, a ton of Gerome's & a Debat-Ponson!

Bouchard's "after the bath" is one of those rare paintings where you cannot see the face of the model. (In Lefebvre's Odalisque, presented below, we can at least still see part of the profile. We'll call such postures from now on "low profile").
Bouchard was really fascinated by Turkish baths, and you can still find in many a Paris "marché aux puces antiquaires", for few thousands euro, some of his fantastic paintings.

Note also the high shoes/sandals visible in Bouchard's painting. Such "shoes" are supposed to be extremely erotic, and indeed they are: exactly as the high heels 'pumps' still used by starlets, female manager and porn-dancers nowadays, high heels and such high sandals are extremely erotic because they are as uncomfortable as a shoe can be, and hence underline the 'weakness' of female steps and walking. On the web you can find the metropolitan legend that odalisques in the harem of the Turkish sultan were made to wear such high, precarious sandals "to prevent them from fleeing". This is of course bullshit: it would have been pretty easy to drop them in order to flee. Again: it is the uncomfortableness of this kind of platform shoes that makes women trampling along on them so erotically "weak" (besides button and breasts are auto-magically pushed out when female's tight muscles have to work so much, that's another added advantage).

Bouchard's splendid painting requires as complement a whole bunch of 'White Odalisques with dark-colored maid-slaves' that must have titillated the fantasies of many late XIX century art collectors.
We could add here Gerome's "harem", "greater harem", "bain maure" and "bath" (click on them, note how in "bath" we also have a very "low profile" white model, note also how both 'harems' have those same funny shoes again), maybe Gyula Tornai's "Jaroslava" could be added as well.

Like in the Taijitu, the Yin and Yang symbol, white and black, in this case: white delicate odalisque and black usually muscular maidservant do complement each other -and the potential buyer's wishes- quite well.

Of course we simply HAVE to close this series with Debat-Ponson's masterpiece: the massage!
(another example of one of those rare paintings where you cannot see the face of the model).

Again: "the very passivity of the lovely white figures as opposed to the vigorous activity of the worn, unfeminine ugly black ones, suggests that the passive nude beauty is explicitly being prepared for service in the sultan's bed. This sense of erotic availability is spiced with still more forbidden overtones, for the conjunction of black and white, or dark and light female bodies, whether naked or in the guise of mistress and maidservant, has traditionally signified lesbianism..."

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