Monday, September 22, 2014

Eighteenth Century scenes by Anonymous (Paul-Émile Bécat?)

We have seen this collection of pictures, which look like book illustrations, described in several places as the work of French artist Gabriel Ferrier (1847-1914).  However the style is all wrong for him and his period of activity and they look later (nineteen forties?).  We would be interested to hear from anyone who can positively identify the artist.

Here we have a typical eighteenth century meal with big wigs, big dresses and passionate bosom clasping.  The Champagne ice bucket looks more modern than the ornate ones seen in the eighteenth century.

A common mistake in illustrations set in the past are the length of stockings.  In the eighteenth century they would have only been just above the knee as until elastic fabric was invented they wouldn't have stayed up if they finished higher up the thigh.  Even into the nineteen twenties stockings were shorter than they are today.  This lady's elegantly displayed leg shows a stocking far too long for the period but what a lovely slice of naked upper thigh/

The same is true of this Venetian masquerade lady.  The stockings would also have been much looser above the garters.

It is the look of this lady which dates her as (much) later than Ferrier.  She has something of Gone with the Wind about her hairstyle although she is nicely unveiled here.

Very much of her time, too, is madame here, who looks like a nineteen thirties ofrforties Hollywood portrait.  It reminds us of a photograph we have seen somewhere.

You can't possibly have a set of illustrations like this without a gratuitous lesbian picture.  The ladies here appear to be in considerable less splendour than the other denizens of this world.  Milady slumming it with a servant girl again, perhaps.

Here is an enticingly diaphanous gown with which to tempt the master of the house.  Or perhaps he is just a special guest who needs "looking after".  

In this one we aren't sure if the passionate scene in the background is  a painting, a mirror or a dream of what is to come. The Champagne flutes are unlikely to have been used in the eighteenth century.  In fact they would have been unusual up until the seventies.  Are these pictures even more recent?

Some rather more passionate embracing here as the young lady gets her perky nipple nibbled.

Finally, what is this naked nymph thinking?  Somehow we thing that the gentleman is the innocent here!

So, this a nice set of drawing but obviously not contemporary, not late nineteenth or early twentieth century like Ferrier and possibly even quite recent.  Does anyone have any information?

Someone has said that they look very much like the work of Paul-Émile Bécat, which seems plausible although we can't locate the work they are illustrating. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

La Toilette Intime by Antoine Watteau

This erotic confection is by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and was believed to have been painted some time between 1715 and his death, at the age of just 36, in 1721.  Although his work was hugely influential on eighteenth century art he was not that well known during his life, lacking in aristocratic patrons and producing works for a comparatively small group of middle class enthusiasts.

Agent Triple P first became aware of this painting at about the age of 12 from a black and white illustration in a book of his father's The Female Nude in European Painting by the French art historian Jean-Louis Vaudoyer (1883-1963).  The painting was called The Secret Toilet in that book (it does not seem to have an official name bestowed upon it by Watteau), which added to its allure to a young Triple P.

A maid offers her mistress a bowl containing a sponge for washing her intimate areas.  The whole picture is erotically charged; with the mistress brazenly presenting her groin between elegantly spread thighs, whilst her servant gazes raptly upon the forbidden area.   Some critics have decided that it is almost a parody of a religious scene with the maid kneeling before the white altar of the bed and worshipping her mistress' sex.   Certainly Watteau's implication here is not that the haughty woman would wash herself but that her maid will soon be rubbing her sponge deliciously over her mistresses loins.

There are at least two painting based on Watteau's original by some of his followers.  Interestingly they are both mirror images of the original and they may be based on some of the many prints of Watteau's work which were issued after his death and which increased his popularity enormously.  They both use the same colour scheme for the maid's clothes so may have been been based on a viewing of the original painting.  Both mistress figures wear very much more clothes than  in Watteau's version and, in the second one, the maid is black.  Neither give the erotic frisson of Watteau's original, however.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Les Deux Amies by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Here, as part of eighteenth century month, we have a rather saucy painting of two girls kissing, by that master of eighteenth century playful sensuality, Fragonard (1732-1806).  To add to the frisson, one is naked and one is fully dressed.  Interestingly, the clothed girl has much darker skin than the naked one.  At a time when a pale complexion was fashionable could this mean that the darker skinned girl is, perhaps, a servant of her mistress.  Perhaps she was selected from the women working in the fields on madame's estate for some indoor recreation.