I have noticed that a lot of readers are coming forward with their most vivid memories of little girls in books and films. One had an interesting theory that, in some cases, medical texts include images of healthy women and girls in the guise of a clinical presentation. He could not help but wonder if they were using the respectability of medicine to justify these images. I told him that his idea was part of a notion I have been exploring I call contrivances.
A contrivance is an excuse, a way of justifying something that would not normally be acceptable. Pigtails has endeavored to break through this facade and acknowledge that we find images of healthy naked girls (and women) appealing. There are different degrees of artistry involved, but the bald truth is that we find ways to view and appreciate these images. Artists are perhaps the most honest in simply acknowledging this beauty, but they often couch it somewhat in symbolism using the feigned metaphor of innocence. The more honest of naturists also admit to the joys of being surrounded by human beauty.
This particular reader remembers the first nude photo he saw: an 11-year-old girl in the book The Thyroid Gland and Clinical Application of Medicinal Thyroid (1945) by The Armour Laboratories. He no longer has the book, but remembers it vividly. The girl had been treated for cretinism using medicine manufactured by the company. After she was completely cured, a nude photo was taken to show her physical condition. According to the book, the symptoms of cretinism include stubby fingers and toes and to show she was normal, it would have been necessary for the girl to remove her shoes. She could have worn a loose, baggy blouse, perhaps exposing the necessary parts of her body, but she really did not need to remove any clothing other than her shoes. The photo in the book, however, showed this girl wearing shoes and socks but nothing else!
Being a young boy interested in photos of nude girls, he looked for other medical books in libraries and book stores, and discovered that this book was not typical. Doctors are expected to know what a healthy person looks like and photos in other medical books showed nudity only when needed and the face was usually censored. Thus, he came to the conclusion that these images were published for the sake of art, disguised as medicine.
Years later, he did find another artistic medical photo of a nude girl about 12 years old. It was in Medical Infrared Photography (Kodak Publication No. N-1, 1973) by Eastman Kodak Company. The photo in question was not infrared and it was an example of photography for which infrared is not suitable.
Though evenly distributed, the contrast would not be suitable for infrared photography. -Caption, Figure 35, Medical Infrared Photography, Eastman Kodak Company, 1973
Another example of a contrived anatomy book is Dr. C. H. Stratz’ Der Körper des Kindes (The Body of the Child). In this case, the images were clearly artistic as they came from known photographers of children of the time. There will be a dedicated post on Stratz at a later date but you can go here for a sample of his work.
Our contributor also found other online material dealing with this notion of contrivances. It is another medical textbook, The Anatomical Basis of Medical Practice (1971) by Becker, Wilson, and Gehweiler described on the StreetAnatomy site. The age of the subjects are not appropriate for Pigtails in Paint, but you can read the description and some of the quotes are relevant to the point this man was making. People may assume—and this may be a matter of psychological comfort—that physicians are so accustomed to nudity that they no longer appreciate the aesthetics, In this case, the authors admit that physicians enjoy seeing attractive naked females, and that they included artistic nude photos in a serious medical text for that reason.
There is also an account of Amy Lyon (aka Emma Hamilton) at age 15 acting as a model in Dr. Graham’s health lectures in 1780. The sources agree that the so-called health lectures were actually nude shows. Thomas Rowlandson made a drawing circa 1800 titled The Future Lady Hamilton Posing as Hygeia, Goddess of Health when she was in her 20s. So, though the contrivances may change form over the centuries, their roots run deep.