Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A few more French girl/girl pictures...

Agent Triple P is off to Africa for ten days or so and so won't be posting for a while.  We shall leave you with a couple of French photographs from the twenties or thirties of some young ladies appreciating themselves in each other's company.

Lesbian scenes by Achille Devéria

Illustration for the opening scene of Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès

In an earlier post we presented a couple of illustrations for the nineteenth century erotic novel Gamiani, ou deux nuits d'excès (1833) by twentieth century artist Suzanne Ballivet: link.   Here are a couple more illustrations for the same novel but this time they are from much earlier (around 1848) and are by Achille Devéria (1800-1857)

 Achille Jacques-Jean-Marie Devéria was a French painter and lithographer.  Devéria's paintings were mainly in watercolour but it was his lithographic illustrations and portraits that he was really famous for.   At about the time he produced these illustrations he was appointed director of the Bibliothèque Nationale's department of engravings.

He produced quite a few erotic lithographs; most of which feature men and women. However, the novel for which these illustrations were done features quite a few lesbian interludes including the opening scene where the hero spies upon two women having sex.  Erotic illustrations of lesbian activity were comparatively rare in this period; most erotica focussing on men and women.

Although the pictures are quite lively we don't think that they show any sign of having been done from life as anatomically they are rather curious!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mirage by Roy Volkmann

Penthouse's fourth girl/girl pictorial appeared in the September 1974 edition which featured the most explicit Pet of the Month pictures so far from Janice Kane, who was also featured on the cover exposing the first completely uncovered nipple in a full size picture on the cover of the magazine.

A rather different approach was taken with this pictorial in that it featured photographs from a forthcoming book from the Penthouse publishing arm rather than being a stand alone pictorial.

These were the work of New York based photographer Roy Volkmann.   Volkman built a recreation of an attic in his Manhattan studio and spent eight weeks shooting the pictures for the book, Mirage

The inspiration for the shoot came from an episode where he was doing tests of two models in his New York studio.  “I was impressed by the way both women interplayed.  They projected a feeling of natural beauty, of subtle sensuousness so powerful that I felt I had to freeze the image,” he said.

“Women do have these fantasies of exploring their own bodies through those of other women.”  he continued, pretentiously.  “I wanted to express this fantasy as beautifully as I could.  A woman exploring herself.”
This is obviously the rationale behind having two such similar looking women and the use of a mirror in some of the shots.  It is really one woman discovering herself; the other woman is an illusion; a Mirage as the title of the book implies.

Volkmann began his photographic career in Europe, shooting in London, Paris and Milan, working in the beauty and fashion areas for magazines such as Stern, Grazia, Max and Harpers Bazaar Italia.

His pictorial for Penthouse mixes conventional  boudoir photography with more avant-garde dance-inspired work.

He continued as a mainstream photographer shooting portraits of stars such as Melanie Griffith, Michael Douglas and Sean Young and is still very active today.  He produced a well known series of photographs of Canadian actress Natasha Henstridge to publicise her film Species, in which she posed with an HR Giger designed chair.

 Natasha Henstridge

Originally Volkmann was a dancer, however, and now he largely specialises in dance photography using his understanding of anatomy and movement to award winning effect.  He continues to produce artistic nude work and teaches nude photography at the International Center of Photography in New York.  Some of his most effective pictures combine the two as in this magnificent example below.

Seraph 2007

So this was something of an artistic diversion for Penthouse in their portrayal of girls togetherThe next girl/girl pictorial would be shot by yet another different photographer and would appear six months in the future; in March 1975.

Girl/girl French postcards from the 1920s and 1930s

Anonymous 1936

Nudity was much more acceptable in France than elsewhere in Europe in the twenties and thirties and the stages of Parisian nightclubs such as the Moulin Rouge and the Folies-Bergère and dance halls were awash with half naked and even naked dancing girls; something that wasn't seen in Britain for another thirty years or more. 

From 1936

These dancing girls often supplemented their incomes by posing for photographers producing erotic postcards. 

From 1934

This is not to say that these postcards were freely available but in the right (or wrong) area of Paris, such as Pigalle, Rue Saint-Dennis and the Madeleine, they could be bought easily although most were bought by mail order.  Street vendors sold them in the red light districts carefully hidden underneath their overcoats in the prototypical "dirty postcards" way.

In the nineteen twenties and thirties the cards got spicier, in many ways reflecting the more assertive attitudes of women themselves following the Great War. 

There was a great sapphic movement in Paris at this time as independent women experimented with relationships with each other as well as men (these bisexual flappers were known as garçonne). 

This was increasingly reflected in the cards themselves which, began to not just show a number of naked women posing together but interacting with each other to erotic effect.

From the point of view of today's viewer, the girls from nineteen thirties cards look more modern; the old style, dramatic make-up needed for the old plate cameras was replaced by a more natural look which the modern lightweight cameras could capture. 

Circa 1935

No-one has ever tried to draw up a list of the photographers, publishers or models involved in this industry.  Part of the fun for collectors is trying to identify models in different pictures and the year that the photographs were taken.  There were many different postcards and only a few of each survive today.  Collecting these postcards has become a popular hobby and, as a result, prices have rocketed.

From a series printed in 1935

Most of these cards were done as silver prints on baryte paper using gelatin-bromide plates.  They were printed by the kilometer on rotary presses on pare fed from rolls which allowed true mass production.

Circa 1935

We will return to these vintage images another time; firstly, when we look at the sub-genre of girl/girl spanking pictures in the twenties and thirties.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Girl/girl pictures from French postcards: 1890s to 1920s

Typical of the classical nudes of the 1880s and 1890s

Most French photographs of nude women, whilst "naughty" by the standards of the day look rather sweet and innocent today.  Certainly, explicit "hardcore" material was available from the very early years of photography but most of it just included naked ladies; in itself a shocking thing to most people at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.

A little more playful from c 1910

The only nude women most people would have seen would have been classical painting and sculpture if they lived in cities.  Initially the photographers copied this style so as to take advantage of the outraged cry of pornographers throughout history: " But its Art!"

circa 1900

Otherwise men wouldn't have seen their first naked woman until their wedding night and maybe not even then.  Going to bed naked is a comparatively recent development and most people would have worn nightclothes and had sex with the lights off; the experience would not have been a visual one. 

circa 1910

It was the huge rise in popularity of photographic postcards at the beginning of the 1900s that saw an equivalent rise in the mass production of risque pictures. 

circa 1915

Most of these cards were produced anonymously.  The fact that they were widely available didn't mean that the authorities, or the Church, approved of them and many photographers, distributors and salesmen risked getting their stocks confiscated.

circa 1918

Because of the anonymous nature and myriad publishers and editions, dating these cards is very difficult.  The best guideline is hair styles.  Long hair was popular up until the first world war.  In the 1920s much shorter hair became popular until by the thirties the styles were still short but a little looser.


The level of naughtiness, particularly with girl/girl cards is another indicator.  The older cards retain the faux classical looks and poses.  After the First World War the girls are more likely to be seen interacting with each other.  By the nineteen twenties and thirties implied or demonstrably lesbian poses were more common.


Postcards during this period were rather like e-mails today with the postal services delivering millions of postcards every year as people exchanged their news.  In 1911, for example, 123 million postcards were published in France alone. 

Late twenties


Picture postcards featuring naked girls first appeared at the turn of the century and created the sort of problems that the internet did a few years ago as regards "objectionable material", especially concering the transmission of this material across national borders where different standards applied. 

Part of a series from the late twenties

In France, there were few issues as regards the sending of these initial artistic nudes through the post (c.f. the issues that the publishers of Playboy and Penthouse had with the postal services in the US and Britain over fifty years later).  In reality, most of the naughty Bristol board 31/2" x 51/2" cards were bought for collections rather than to post.  Many of these were produced for the use of artists who had no access to models (or at least, that was the initial justification) and they featured coy "classical" poses. 

The slightly naughtier cards appeared later and thrived during the First World War when they were very popular with the soldiers on the front.  Publishers started to issue short series of five or ten cards telling a little story or showing the same model or models in different views.

These postcards continued to be made until World War Two. Next time we will look at some from the nineteen thirties.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lesbian Joy by Helmut Stockmann

We've not been able to find anything out about this delightful picture other than it was painted in 1920 by Helmut Stockmann who also produced a number of erotic cartoons and, strangely, recruitment posters during the Nazi period in Germany. 

It's the matching hair and stockings we like!

Women by Gustav Klimt

Freundinnen, nachts rechts liegend (1905)

Although Klimt produced a lot of erotic drawings his most successful are those featuring one woman.  He kept a selection of models in his large studio and used to wander from room to room drawing them as he saw fit.  Many of the poses these models assumed would have been very recognisable to readers of Penthouse and similar magazines in the mid to late seventies when women's pussies became exposed to the wider world through magazine pictures for the first time. 

Reclining nude girls with stockings (1900)

Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse was, of course, a painter himself and had lived in Europe so he may have been familiar with Klimt's erotic drawings; although as late as 1966 an Italian judge was still deeming them obscene and having them confiscated so they were not as well known as today.  Certainly. in most of his erotic drawings of women, Klimt drew attention to his model's pussies unlike any previous serious artist (with the possible exception of Rodin).

Zwei auf einem Ruhebett liegende Frauenakte (1916)

His sketches of two women together are altogether less explicit and more tender and we show a few of those today.  We don't know much about Klimt's models as one of his lovers, Emilie Flöge, burnt all his correspondence on his death.

Oddly, for Triple P his most erotic girl/girl painting is The Friends (1916), supposedly a portrait of a real lesbian couple.  Klimt does get across very strongly, not only the personalities of the two women, but also some idea of their realtionship as well.  We suspect this may be the Klimt picture which photographer Ken Marcus mentioned as being so influential on his own work.  Sadly, this picture was destroyed in 1945.

Zwei auf dem Rücken liegende frauen (1905)

The Art Nouveau movement, or Secessionsstil in Austria, was very much about linear art and blocks of colour.  Tonal quality was very much subservient to line and Klimt was undoutedly a master of line.  We will look at Klimt's life in more depth another time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Indian Group Lesbian Scene

Most erotic painting in India was of men and women so to find a lesbian scene is unusual (bearing in mind, of course, that Hindu gods sometimes changed sex!).  Agent Triple P doesn't know what period this painting is from but given its finished nature and style we would guess it is nineteenth century; a period when the kings of Mysore were publishing extensively illustrated erotic books.

Lesbians were not outcasts in ancient India as they were elsewhere.  Indeed, the Sanskrit word svairini used to descibe them refers to an independent or liberated woman who has refused a husband, earns her own livelihood, and lives either alone or in marriage with another woman.

Indian erotica is unusual in that it never conveys any sense of the illicit, forbidden or sordid.  The pursuit of kama (pleasue) is a key pillar in a Hindu attaining salvation.  Unlike Chinese and Japanese erotic art which was confined to scrolls and albums most Indian erotic art was done as individual paintings.  These were for display not hiding away somewhere.  Indian erotic art is unique in that it was also included in the decoration of rooms, buildings and furniture.

These attractive ladies, disporting themselves with the help of dildos, certainly seem to be pursuing their pleasure very actively!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two's Company by Ken Marcus

Despite the much more positive feedback which Penthouse received on their previous girl/girl set, Woodstock Generation, it would still be nearly a year before they went the two girl route again with this August 1973 pictorial.

This pictorial, Two's Company, saw photographer Ken Marcus taking over the duties after James Baes and Amnon Bar-Tur's previous efforts. Marcus had only joined Penthouse at the end of the previous year and this was only his sixth pictorial for them.  He was the first American photographer to work for the magazine, which was still very much based in London.

Marcus was something of a wunderkind. Born in California in 1946 he had his first dark room by the age of eight. At 13 he was Ansell Adams' youngest student and would continue to study with him for thirteen years. By the time he was 15 he was already attending degree-level photographic classes at the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design and went professional at 17.  At the age of 19 he had his first studio near Hollywood. His initial jobs were advertising, editorial and entertainment industry work. Many of his photographs from backstage at the Monterey pop festival in 1967 would become iconic. He first became interested in the idea of nude photography when a girlfriend showed him a picture by Gustav Klimt of two women together.

His main interest from this point, as regards nude photography, was to show the relationship between two people. Much of his early Penthouse work was for what they eventually christened "love sets".  His first published pictorial for Penthouse, One and One Make Free, was their first couples pictorial.  He very much specialised in couples shoots during his time at the magazine and set the stylistic parameters for much of what would follow, as this content became more common in the magazine.

His main contribution to Penthouse was the introduction of soft-focus photography which would soon become adopted by other photgraphers working for the magazine.  It was probably not a coincidence that this technique enabled them to portray their model's bodies in a more explicit way during the mid-seventies.

After three years at Penthouse he moved to Playboy and stayed there for 11 years. He later returned to Penthouse, whilst still retaining his lucrative corporate work. He now shoots almost exclusively for his own website, which specialises in fetish photography.

Like both the previous girl/girl sets this pictorial mixed outdoor and indoor location shooting.  It also starts in the typical Penthouse litererary style of the time:

"Girls will be girls.  Especially on a soft, warm summer afternoon, when the sun sits lazily in the clear sky, burning away the problems and pressures of urban living, and a soft breeze blows with a sultry whisper.  It makes a woman want to open herself up completely to the elements and to the shared solitude of good companionship."

And so begins another pretentious piece to accompany, what is after all, just pictures of two ladies stripping off.

The girls in this pictorial are not just depicted caressing each other more than in the previous two but actually undressing each other as well.

We are told the blonde is called Carol and the Brunette is Laura.

We move indoors and there is considerably more sensual contact between the two girls

The key difference between this and previous girl/girl sets is that Carol and Laura are photographed in bed together.  This hints that their relationship is more sexual than the previous almost innocent nudity of Two Women or Woodstock Generation.

Not only are they pictured in bed together but it is obvious that they are in bed together during the daytime.

The picture below is the most physical of any girl/girl pictorial picture in the magazine to date.  Snuggled up on the bed together you can almost feel the warmth of their bodies.

Disappointingly, although the text accompanying the pictorial spoke of the "love between women" at the end of the pice both girls were quoted as saying that of course "but that doesn't mean I don't need a man" and it "doesn't replace the strength and affection that you get from a man."  Something of a cop-out, we feel.  Perhaps, Penthouse were still thinking of the somewhat negative reaction to their first girl/girl set and thinking perhaps that they should reassure their readers that the girls weren't real lesbians.

A tender cheek to breast interaction exemplifies Marcus; sensual approach to his subject.

The above picture is noteworthy for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it is the only real full frontal picture in the pictorial; a contrast to all the fluff on display in the previous Woodstock Generation.  This is especially interesting as in the same issue the Pet of the Month, Lane Coyle, became the first Pet to clearly display her labia.  Maybe Penthouse thought two girls together was risque enough without pushing the pussy quotient.  Secondly, Laura's hand, which is on Carol's thigh, is very close to her pubic area; also a first.  Thirdly, given today's waxed and shaven models it is nice to see an enticing trail of hair from Laura's groin to her belly button.

We leave the girls with Carol not only kissing Laura but caressing her breasts as well in a first of its kind picture for Penthouse.  A tender finish for a delicately sensuous pictorial.

Penthouse's next girl/girl set would be over a year into the future and would be a very different pictorial.