Girls in the Art of Egypt’s New Kingdom

Egypt is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of the most enduring. Narmer, who united Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt to become the first Pharaoh, began his reign in about 3100 BC. Cleopatra VII died in 30 BC, over three thousand years later. We are closer in time to Cleopatra than Cleopatra was to the first King of Egypt.

The period known as the New Kingdom, approximately 1560 BC to 1070 BC, is to me the most interesting time in Egyptian history. The New Kingdom is the Egypt of the Book of Exodus and of King Tut. It was when Egypt became a world power. It was the time of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten who sought to replace Egypt’s religion with the monotheistic worship of Aten. Art was at its height during the New Kingdom.

Egyptian painting was very distinctive. The purpose of painting in ancient Egypt was to convey information, rather than produce works of artistic merit. Fortunately, it often did both. Paintings on the walls of tombs were thought to help the deceased enjoy the activities portrayed in the paintings. Therefore, we have some very informative pictures of life in ancient Egypt, including family life.

Paintings are generally flat, without perspective or shading. The background is either omitted, or shown in a way that everything the painter wants to show is clearly visible. Faces are almost always shown in profile, but eyes are shown as if seen from the front. Bodies are also in profile, but shoulders are shown frontally. This allows the painter to depict each arm clearly and completely. It allows the painter to give the viewer a detailed picture of what the subject is doing with each arm. The proportions of the human figure are fairly constant; children are usually shown as miniature adults.

The first painting of family life in the New Kingdom is from the tomb of Inherkau. Inherkau is seated in his home with his wife, surrounded by their four daughters. He holds a curl of one daughter’s elaborate hair-do, and pats her gently on the head. I find this to be an endearing representation of a loving family from over three thousand years ago.

Anonymous – Family of Inherkau (circa 1100 B.C.)

The next is a family outing to the marshes from the tomb of Menna. Menna, his wife, a grown daughter, a young daughter and a young son are on a papyrus raft. Hunting scenes show more of the surroundings than other paintings because the artist wants to present the rich bounty of wildlife in the marsh. Menna is hunting ducks, holding live ducks for a decoy in one hand and a throwing stick in the other. His wife stands behind him, and their grown daughter stands behind her mother. A second, sitting image of the older daughter is in the upper left. A young daughter is beside Menna, leaning over the raft to gather lotus flowers. A young son holding ducks stands in front of Menna.

Anonymous – Hunting Scene from the Tomb of Menna (circa 1400- 1352 B.C.)

Social status is represented by the height of each figure. Menna is the tallest, his wife slightly shorter, the grown daughter is still shorter, and the two younger children are the lowest. However, if you were to straighten out the youngest daughter and put her in a standing position, she would be slightly taller than the grown daughter. The young daughter’s head is in a lower position, and that is enough to show her status. The artist may not have wanted her to appear too tiny in her bent posture, like the young girl in the tomb painting from the tomb of Pashedu.

Anonymous – Young Girl from the Tomb of Pashedu (circa 1279 – 1213 B.C.)

Another scene of a family in the marsh is from the tomb of Nakht. It is similar to the previous marsh scene in that it portrays a husband, a wife, an older daughter, a younger daughter, and a son. A strange thing about this painting is that Nakht has his arms positioned as if he is holding a fishing spear, and yet no spear is visible. It appears that for some unknown reason, the spear was never painted.

Anonymous -Fishing Scene from the Tomb of Nakht (circa 1500 B.C.)

The bas-relief below shows the royal family of Pharaoh Akhenaten, Queen Nefertiti, and three of their children. This depiction of a happy family is similar to that of Inherkhau. Nefertiti and Akhenaten had a total of six children, all girls. Akhenaten has a long face, skinny arms, and a pot belly. Pharaohs were normally depicted in an idealized fashion, but during the reign of Akhenaten there was a movement toward more realistic art. This is why the deformed heads of the girls are also shown realistically. We know from study of mummies of the family that the deformity was real. The unusual shape of the heads are also shown on the fragment of a tomb painting and the statue below.

Anonymous – Family of Pharaoh Akhenaten (circa 1353 – 1336 B.C.)


Anonymous – Two Daughters of Pharaoh Akhenaten (circa 1353 – 1336 B.C.)

The little statue, slightly over one foot high, is believed to be Princess Ankhesenpaaten, the third daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten. The statue is one of over 1,000 artifacts that was stolen or destroyed in August 2013 when a mob looted the Mallawi City Museum. Fortunately, it has been recovered. It is an enigmatic little statue; it appears that the sculptor was going to carve another face on the side of the head. I can’t decide if her expression is supposed to be serene or arrogant. What is that ball she holds?

Anonymous – Princess Ankhesenpaaten (circa 1353 – 1336 B.C.)

The following bas-relief depicts Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Meriaten (their eldest daughter), and another princess adoring Aten, the solar disc. Meriaten holds a sistrum, and wears the same style robe as her mother. In the previous examples of New Kingdom art, the young girls were depicted in the nude. It is common for children to be nude in Egyptian art, but we know that they were sometimes clothed. Children’s clothing has been recovered from archeological sites. It gets too cold in Egyptian winters to always go without clothes. Egyptologists think that girls went naked part of the time, but that it was an artistic convention to show them nude nearly all of the time.

Anonymous-Family of Pharaoh Akhenaten Adoring Aten(circa 1353 – 1336 B.C.)

Dr. Gay Robins devotes a section in her book Women in Ancient Egypt to the “naked adolescent girl” motif in New Kingdom art. She states that there is a sexual connotation to the motif. Sometimes, however, it is not obvious today that there is anything sexual implied. The next two examples of New Kingdom art were included in that section of Women in Ancient Egypt. The first is a cosmetics container in the likeness of a young girl carrying a burden. It appears to be merely a cute little girl, but the sexual connotation is supposed to be evident to an ancient Egyptian because the girl wears an amulet depicting the God Bes, and Bes is associated with sexuality.

Anonymous – Cosmetics Container (circa 1370 B.C.)

The second example from Dr. Robins’ book is this banquet scene from the tomb of Nebamun. Nude serving girls are attending to the guests at the party. Note that all of the guests in this painting are women. Note also that although the serving girls are nude, the serving boys are clothed. If the purpose of the nudity were to titillate the guests, shouldn’t the boys be nude too? Is it possible that the girls are nude merely because it is a custom without any sexual connotation?

Anonymous – Feast for Nebamun (circa 1350 B.C.)

The next two paintings also show girls at work, but they are working at a job that seems very strange today. They are professional mourners. They were paid to cry and wail at their client’s funeral. Most of the mourners are adults, but there is a girl in the painting from the tomb of Pharaoh Ramose, and four girls in the painting from the tomb of Khonsuemheb.

Anonymous – Mourners from the Tomb of Ramose (circa 1375 B.C.)

Anonymous – Mourners from the Tomb of Khonsuemheb (circa 1292 – 1069 B.C.)

The final Egyptian girl in this post was in a musical band. Four women in the band have instruments, but the girl does not. Nevertheless, her enthusiasm for the music is apparent even in the flat, conventional style of New Kingdom painting.

Anonymous – Musicians from the Tomb of Djeserkaraseneb, Thebes (circa 1450 B.C.)


The Photography of Marcelin Flandrin

Marcelin Flandrin was an ethnic European Frenchman born in Algeria in 1889. Sources do not agree on when he went to Morocco, but he was definitely there by 1912 when it became a protectorate of France. Flandrin was an aviator and a photographer and served in the French military in Morocco. When the First World War began in Europe in 1914, Flandrin was transferred to France where he served in the French Army’s photographic department.

After the war, he returned to Morocco and lived in Casablanca. There he worked as a professional photographer, and documented the identity of Casablanca in the 1920s. In 1922 he reported on the visit to the French President to Morocco. In 1924 his photos, along with those of Rudolf Lehnert, were used to illustrate the book Nordafrica. In 1925 he took one of his most famous photos; the last photo of a Barbary Lion in the wild. He was the photographer for the Sultan of Morocco’s trip to France in 1926 . Flandrin was one of the greatest publishers of postcards of his time. He died in 1957.

It is hard to date his photos. Most sources I have seen do not even try to determine in what year his photos were taken. One source gave a “circa 1900” date for professional photographs by Flandrin, although he was only 11 years old at the time. Another source gave a circa 1930 date for the photo Esclaves dans les Bananiers. Slavery was abolished in Morocco in 1925, so it is very unlikely that a photo of slaves would have been taken in 1930. In the captions for the Flandrin photos in this post, the dates are given as circa 1925, but that is only a guess.

Although Flandrin is better known for photos of adults, war photography, and his pioneering work in aerial photography; he made several photos of young girls. Le Seigneur Passe !! is my favorite of his girl photos. The three interlaced arms in the center of the photo, the different directions the models are facing, and the expressions on the faces combine to give the photo a sense of movement and excitement.

Marcelin Flandrin – Le Seigneur Passe!! (circa 1925)

The next photo, Les Trois Graces Africaines, shows the same three models in a more relaxed composition. It appears to be a simple photo at first glance, but there may be more to this work than is immediately apparent. I have seen two versions of this photo. The one posted here is the better quality. The other is a mirror image, as if the negative was flipped when it was printed. It is captioned as number 10 of the Nu Académique Marocain series, and has cancelled Moroccan postage stamps affixed. This demonstrates that it was considered respectable enough to be sent through the mail.

Marcelin Flandrin – Les Trois Graces Africaines (circa 1925)

Nude art was popular in the early 20th century, but artists often felt that they had to employ contrivances to make the nudes respectable. One was the ethnographic contrivance, in which the nudes were shown as necessary to educate the viewer about a foreign culture. Orientalism, which is the exotic, romantic portrayals of Islamic culture, is a subcategory of that ethnographic contrivance. Another contrivance was to use nudity in the context of classical mythology, and still another was to portray nudity of an innocent prepubescent who could be considered asexual. Note that Flandrin appears to intentionally avoid using any of these contrivances for Les Trois Graces Africaines.

The title of the photo refers to the Three Graces of mythology. However, there is nothing in this photo that is suggestive of mythology. The Three Graces are conventionally portrayed in a line, with the center grace facing the opposite direction from the two on the ends of the line. The title Les Trois Graces Africaines serves to remind the viewer that Flandrin could easily have used this mythological contrivance, but chose not to. The painting below shows how the Three Graces should appear.

Raphael – Three Graces (circa 1505)

Flandrin documented the conditions in Morocco in the 1920s with photos of all ages and both sexes. His works include a few nudes of only prepubescent models, and these may be seen as employing the “innocent, asexual child” contrivance. Four photos of this kind appear below. Three are casual outdoor photos of girls, and one is an indoor photo posed as a model in a life-drawing class. Note that these photos demonstrate that Les Trois Graces Africaines would have worked just as well as Les Deux Graces Africaines, with the two youngest models only. This would have avoided arousing controversy by omitting the fully nude figure of the sexually mature young woman. Flandrin may have chosen to use a young woman with the two girls precisely for the purpose of challenging the viewer.

Marcelin Flandrin – 11. Nu Académique Marocain (circa 1925)

Marcelin Flandrin – 20. Nu Académique Marocain (circa 1925)

Marcelin Flandrin – 18. Nu Académique Marocain (circa 1925)

Marcelin Flandrin – La Causette dans le Jardin de la Casbah (circa 1925)

Flandrin is considered to be an Orientalist photographer, but I don’t think that any of the five photos posted above are Orientalist. The following photo by Lehnert and Landrock, Deux Fillettes Nues, et un Garçonnet, is an example of an Orientalist contrivance. Note the Moorish arch, the decorative tiles on the wall, and the ceramic jugs that give the photo an exotic near-eastern flavor.

Lehnert and Landrock – Deux Fillettes Nues, et un Garçonnet (circa1910)

The following two photos are examples of Flandrin photos that are Orientalist. In these, he uses the model’s clothing and props to show that these photographs document a non-western culture. However, since there is no nudity in these photos, he does not use Orientalism as a contrivance to make nudity acceptable.

Marcelin Flandrin – Petite Kabyle Assise (circa 1925)

Marcelin Flandrin – Jeunes Filles Mauresques (circa 1925)

Look again at Les Trois Graces Africaines, Le Seigneur Passe !! , and 18. Nu Académique Marocain. There are no near-eastern props in these photos. Even the hoop earrings would fit in with the art deco styles popular in Europe and America at that time. I believe that Flandrin’s attitude toward nude photography was expressed in the caption for another of his postcards. This was a photo of three nude models appearing quite happy, over an old French proverb that, translated into English is: “Where there is embarrassment, there is no pleasure.” The models were not embarrassed and needed no contrivance to justify their nudity. Flandrin may have thought that the viewer should not need a contrivance either.

Magdalenian Girls

Since Pigtails is the website for the study of girls in art, it is appropriate to include some very early examples. Girls have been a popular subject in art for a very long time.

During the Magdalenian period in Europe (approximately 17,000 BC to 10,000 BC) people lived primarily by hunting. They had no metal tools. It is believed that they lived in tents in the summer, that could be easily moved to follow the herds of game. In the harsh winters of the time, they lived in more substantial shelters or, where caves or rock shelters were available, used them during the winters. Many of their artifacts have been found in rock shelters (overhanging cliffs), and therefore the Magdalenian people have come to be called “cave men”. The cave men are often portrayed as dumb and sub-human. This is not true.

The Magdalenians were Homo sapiens, the same as modern people. A typical group of Magdalenian adults would not be intellectually inferior to a group of modern adults. In fact, there is reason to believe that the Magdalenian adults would be more intelligent than modern people; life was so difficult that those with subnormal intelligence were unlikely to survive to adulthood.

The Magdalenians developed art that reflected this high intellectual level. The cave art at places such as Lascaux in France, Altamira in Spain, and Cresswell in England prove that highly sophisticated art flourished in the Magdalenian period. Most of the cave art consists of paintings or drawings of animals. At Cresswell, however, there are drawings that have been interpreted as dancing girls or women. The drawings are abstract, and do not appear to be representations of the human form to me, but I am not an expert on the conventions of prehistoric art. Dr. Paul Pettit is an expert, and according to him, “I interpret at least two of those long-necked birds as women – possibly some ritual dance undertaken by females, and possibly in the cave itself.” The first illustration is one of the drawings to which Dr. Pettit refers.

Anonymous – Cresswell Drawing(circa 11,000 B.C.)

The next picture is my favorite example of Magdalenian art. It was found engraved on a rock in La Marche Cave, France, and dates from about 13,000 B.C. The figure wears the bulky clothing necessary for the cold climate of the era. When considered by itself, it may not be obvious if the figure is a girl, a boy, a woman, or a clean-shaven man. When we look at it together with other drawings from La Marche it is easier to interpret. There are drawings of people of both sexes, from a newborn with the umbilical cord still present to the elderly. The ratio of the size of the head to the size of the body indicate that this is a drawing of a juvenile. The dainty size of the feet and feminine features indicate that it is a girl.

The picture has a hurried quality, like a gesture drawing. Note that the legs seem to be double. Is that intentional, or did the artist, who could not erase his engraving, decide to slightly change the position of the legs? Is the girl wearing a cape? Does she have a rectangular object on her lap?

The last example is an ivory figure of a girl that has been named Venus Impudica or Vénus Impudique by modern archaeologists. It was found at Laugerie-Basse in France. It is a little over three inches tall, and is missing its head and feet. It was carved between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. The breasts of the figure appear to be just beginning to develop, showing that it represents a girl rather than a woman. Venus Impudica is, in my opinion, cruder than the other examples of Magdalenian art in this post. Nevertheless, it has a certain charm about it. It is fascinating to think that it may have been a little girl’s doll. Perhaps a man long ago, with only a chip of flint for a knife, laboriously carved a doll for his beloved daughter. She probably loved her dolly as much as any modern girl loves her more sophisticated machine-made doll.

Anonymous – Venus Impudica(circa 15,000 B.C.-10,000 B.C.)

Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy

I have thought of doing a post about Nancy for several years, but for two reasons I found it very hard to start. One reason is that many would not consider that comic strip to be on the same level as the fine art usually featured in Pigtails. Even as comic strip art, Nancy is minimalist. The gags are corny and although I loved Nancy, most of my friends thought the strip was dumb. The second reason is that there is so much material that it is difficult to choose a few representative examples for a short post. Ernie Bushmiller drew Nancy from 1933 to 1982, and other artists have continued the strip after Bushmiller died.

It is this lasting popularity of Nancy that makes me believe that it should be recognized in Pigtails. Nancy may well be the best known little girl in 20th century American art. By 1948, the strip appeared in 450 newspapers with a total circulation of 21 million. At the peak of Nancy’s popularity, in the 1970s, she was in 880 newspapers worldwide. Most papers were read by multiple members of the family, and the comics were read to those who had not yet learned to read. Perhaps 100 million people followed Nancy’s adventures each day. Even if Bushmiller is not in the same class as Da Vinci or Rembrandt, Pigtails in Paint would not be complete without a sample of his work.

Ernie Bushmiller was born in the Bronx, New York in 1905. His parents were immigrants; his father was from Germany and his mother from Ireland. Ernie’s father was an artist, a painter, who had to work at menial jobs in a struggle to support the family. Ernie learned two important things from his father. First, he learned an appreciation for the graphic arts and for literature. Second, he learned that it is difficult to support a family with fine art. To appeal to the masses, art should be simple and direct. Nancy certainly is.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1963)

Ernie quit school at age 14 and went to work as a copy boy at the New York World newspaper. At night he attended art classes. He was paid nine dollars per week, but he later said that he would have paid the paper to let him hang around. He loved working at the paper, where he worked with such cartoonist greats as Rudolph Dirks. Ernie’s big opportunity came in 1925 when he took over drawing the Fritzi Ritz comic. Fritzi Ritz was a liberated young 1920s flapper. In 1933 Fritzi’s orphan niece, Nancy, came to live with her. At first, Nancy was intended to be a temporary part of the strip. However, Nancy was so popular that she became a permanent character in Fritzi Ritz. She was more popular than Fritzi herself. Just as Popeye ousted Castor Oyl as the protagonist of Thimble Theater, and Snuffy Smith took over the Barney Google strip, Nancy became the focus of the Fritzi Ritz strip. Aunt Fritzi was relegated to a secondary role as the adult authority figure, and in 1938 the name of the strip was officially changed to Nancy.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1961)

What was it about the little girl that made her so loved by the readers?  She was obviously more popular than the adult woman Fritzi.  The little boy who was the lead male in the strip, Sluggo, was there only to support Nancy.  Soon after Nancy appeared, there was a story in the Fritzi Ritz strip about an entrepreneur marketing a doll modeled after Nancy.  Since dolls in the 1930s were generally girl dolls, this may be why Bushmiller chose to include a niece instead of a nephew in Fritzi Ritz.  A girl probably works better in the later strips as well.  I believe that the creator of the Little Lulu comic, Marjorie Henderson Buell, was correct when she noted that a mischievous little girl can get away with stunts that look cute, but would look boorish if done by a boy.

As the Nancy strip matured, the style became bolder and more minimalist. Everything in the art was there to support the gag. Everything was explicit. If the scene was a circus side show, the tents would be labeled in large capital letters “CIRCUS” and “SIDE SHOW.”

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1970)

The strip above, from 1970, is a good example of the Bushmiller’s humor. There were a lot of hippies in 1970. There were also dwarfs (called midgets in 1970). Hippies were seen as foolish and lazy and were the subject of many jokes. However, simply being a hippie was not funny; the hippie had to do something particularly foolish or lazy to make the joke. Simply being a dwarf was not funny either; the dwarf had to do something unique to cope with his small stature to make the joke. The point of this strip is not that we should laugh at the dwarf hippie but that we should laugh at Nancy for believing such an outrageous thing as a dwarf hippie is possible. Note that the scene is near a circus side show. The “freaks” exhibited at carnivals and side shows in 1970 were usually fake, and at best greatly exaggerated. This “midget hippie” is really a midget, but is only pretending to be a hippie for the side show.  In spite of his lack of facial hair, we know he is a dwarf and not a child because he smokes a cigar. Normally, children do not smoke, and in the world of Nancy, everything is normal. One of the keys to understanding the humor is to understand that Nancy’s world is more normal than reality. Things that would be slightly unusual in real life (such as a dwarf hippie) are often amazing or impossible in a Nancy strip. Even something as simple as wearing a wig is weird enough to make Sluggo’s hat fly off of his head.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1972)

You can read more Nancy strips here. To better understand the art and subtle humor, you may want to read How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden, and The Best of Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy by Brian Walker.

Nancy has had some strong competition. Little Lulu was another popular children’s humor strip featuring a young girl. Little Lulu was in some ways like Nancy, but the plots were a little more complex and the humor was more sophisticated. Lulu has also starred in animated cartoons. Many would say Little Lulu was funnier than Nancy, but Nancy’s humor was unique. Little Orphan Annie was an adventure strip with a girl protagonist. The surreal art that portrayed people with no pupils in the eyeballs was instantly recognizable. Annie’s exciting adventures made her another popular comic strip character. Annie also has been in a musical and movies. Shizuka Minamoto, the female lead of the Doraemon comic strip, may be as well-known in Japan as Nancy is in America. The Japanese humor in Doraemon never achieved the success of Nancy in America. When the male lead in Doraemon embarrassed Shizuka by walking in when she was naked, which happened very often, it was innocent children’s humor in Japan, but would be seen differently in America.  The Doraemon panel below was translated by Forgotten Scans.

Fujiko F. Fujio – Doraemon Vol. 12 Chapter 220 last panel (1976)

Nancy has been seven years old for 85 years. She is still popular, and her comic strip is still in production. I expect she will be in the comics for many decades to come.

Ernie Bushmiller – Nancy (1959)

Native American Beauties: Part 2

The Indians of the Americas are admired for their freedom and independence.  Although their traditional culture based on hunting has disappeared from most of the Americas, its legend will always live on.

The first photograph is of a Southern Cheyenne girl holding a bow and arrows.  I estimate that the photo was taken in about 1890.  To put that date in context, here are some of the things that happened in that era:  by 1883 the great bison herds had been destroyed and the traditional life of the buffalo hunters was no longer possible; in 1890 the census bureau declared that the frontier, the border between the White-inhabited United States and Indian country, no longer existed;  in October 1898 the last official battle of the Indian Wars of the United States was fought at Leech Lake; and on 29 August, 1911 the stone age in the United States came to an end when the last surviving Yahi Indian came to “civilization”.  The demure little Cheyenne girl in the photo no doubt saw a lot of change in her lifetime.

Photographer unknown – A Southern Cheyenne Girl (c1890)

It may seem a little incongruous that the girl is holding a bow and arrows; we usually associate weapons with males.  While the photo is obviously a studio portrait, and the bow and arrows may be merely a photographer’s prop, it is not necessarily inappropriate for a female to be photographed with a bow.  It may be surprising, but a few of the Indian warriors were female.  Nonhelema, known to the Whites as “Grenadier Squaw”  first achieved renown as a Shawnee warrior during the Battle of Brushy Run in 1764.  During the Revolutionary War she was a chief, and one of the few Indians to support the American side.  Her service to the American Army as a guide, interpreter, and warrior were invaluable to the cause of American Independence.

The next two portraits are from the same era.  Both are of Lakota Sioux girls, and both girls traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  To a person in the 21st century, it may seem strange that Indians were honored performers in a popular show at a time when the Indian War was in progress.  It may also seem strange that the portrait of an Indian chief in a war bonnet was on U.S. one-cent coins during the Indian Wars.  (Actually the design of the Indian head cent was based on a drawing of a 12-year old girl wearing an Indian war bonnet.)

Photographer unknown – Lizzie, Daughter of Sioux Chief, Long Wolf (c1890)

Elliot and Fry – Wa-Ka-Cha-Sha (Red Rose) The Pet of the Sioux (1887)

The next four photographs are also Sioux girls.  The Sioux, more properly known as Dakota or Lakota, depending on the dialect they speak, are perhaps the most famous Indian nation in the United States.  The Sioux dress, as shown in these photos, is what most people envision when they think of “Indian”.  In the present, some tribes that wore quite different clothing formerly have adopted clothing based on the Sioux for ceremonial occasions.  Two of the photos are by well-known photographers, John Alvin Anderson and Edward Curtis.  The beaded swastikas on the dress of one of the Lakota girls represent a common symbol, widely used by many American Indian tribes long before the German National Socialist Workers (Nazi) Party made it infamous.

John Alvin Anderson – Katie Blue Thunder, age 8, a Brule Sioux (1898)

Heyn Photo – Her Know, Dakota Sioux (1899)

Edward Curtis – Daughter of American Horse (1908)

Photographer unknown – Lakota Girls (c1900)

The following five photographs are of girls of various tribes from the United States.  The first is a studio portrait of two Kiowa girls in fancy dress.  The second is a postcard portrait of a pretty Mesquakie (aka Fox) girl.  The third is a tinted postcard cute little girl of an unknown tribe.  The fourth is a Hupa girl of California wearing elaborate beadwork.  The Hupa are one of the few tribes to retain most of their land to the present time.  The fifth photo shows a Seminole mother and daughters in Florida.  The monochromatic image does not show the bright colors preferred by the Seminoles and related Mikasukis for their dresses.

C.C. Stolz– Kiowa Indian Girls (c1890-1907)

Photographer unknown – Mesquakie Girl (c1915)

F.A. Rinehart – Untitled (1905)

Patterson – The Fair Little Indian Maid (c1930)

Photographer unknown – Seminole Mother with Her Children Including Five Day Old Baby (1948)

The American Indians are the original people of the continents of North and South America.  So far, this post has only mentioned Indians of the United States.  The following photos are all of Indians outside of the United States.  The first is a portrait of a Stoney girl posed in front of Tipis in Banff, Canada.  The Stoney Indians are closely related to the Sioux, and speak a similar language.

Photographer unknown – Stoney Indian Girl (c1900)

The next photo is from Mexico.  It may be found on the official Mexican government site for The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia here.  Although the girls are not specifically identified as Indians, they have Indian features.  Most Mexicans are either Indian or an Indian-White mix, and it is unlikely that girls of the Mexican elite white class would bathe outdoors in a river.  The girls’ pose seems a bit unnatural, and their facial expressions seem to imply they have been chastised.  I don’t know the story behind the photo, but this is my idea of what happened.  Scott, the photographer, was making a photographic record of life in the area.  Bathing in rivers is a typical part of life, so he felt that he must photograph the girls, perhaps when they were in the water so most of their bodies were not visible.  When the girls saw the photographer, they got out of the river and posed naturally.  Scott then reprimanded them for their lack of modesty, and instructed them to adopt the shy poses.  This is merely my personal interpretation of the photo, but it seems to fit the poses and facial expressions.

W. Scott – Niñas Bañistas en un Río (c1904)

The next photograph is a postcard from Brazil.  This photograph of an Indian mother and daughter was posed, yet appears much more natural than the previous photo from Mexico.  I was not able to find the photographer or date of the picture, but when researching it I found an image of the postcard with cancelled Brazilian postage stamps affixed.  This demonstrates that in Brazil, the postcard was respectable enough to be sent in the mail, in spite of the nudity of the subjects.  I wonder if the postcard would be acceptable to postal authorities in this country.

Photographer unknown – Brasil Indias Kamaiuras del Alto Xingu (c1965)

Perhaps there is a different attitude about such things in Brazil.  The following photograph of the Kuarup ceremony at the Kalapalo Indian village features nude girls dancing in the Kuarup ceremony.  It is from the official web page of the government of the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil.  The photo is published here.

Photographer unknown – Celebração do Kuarup no Parque Indígena do Xingu, na Aldeia Kalapalo (2006)

Captain Barton’s Motu Girl

Captain Francis Rickman Barton (1865–1947) was an officer in the British Army and an amateur photographer who was stationed in New Guinea from 1899 to 1908. In 1904 he began assisting anthopologist Charles Seligman, who was preparing the book Melanesians of British New Guinea (1910). The book features some of Captain Barton’s photos. Sixteen photographs taken there by Barton are now in the British Museum and more than 1,500 of his photos are in the collection at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. According to the British Museum, nearly all of the photos are of females. The photo below, from the Royal Anthropological Institute, is his most famous.


F. R. Barton – Motu Girl, Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby (c1907)

According to Photographing Papua: Representation, Colonial Encounters and Imaging in the Public Domain (2007) by Max Quanchi, the girl in the photo was a regular model for Barton. There is another nude photo of this model that was probably taken the same day. The tatoos on the girl’s abdomen were retouched with lampblack, and she was taken to a secluded area of mangroves away from the port to provide a suitable background.

The book South Sea maidens : Western fantasy and sexual politics in the South Pacific (2002) by Michael Sturma, and Supple Bodies: The Papua New Guinea Photographs of Captain Francis R. Barton (2003) by Christopher Wright, also note that the anthropological photographs of Barton are usually young females carefully posed to produce a photo of artistic as well as anthropological merit.

The photo has inspired other works of art. A drawing by Megaera Lorenz of the girl as an ancient Egyptian is here. Chuck Bowden’s version, drawn in pencil, pen, and colored markers is here. A realistic sculpture by Lisa Lichtenfels is below.  The tattoos on the girl and the mangroves have been deleted, and a few other changes were made.


Lisa Lichtenfels – Motu Girl (date unknown)

Some Barton photos from the British Museum collection are available on the internet, but they lack the degree of artistry shown in the Motu Girl, Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby photo. These photos, examples of which are here and here, are more stiffly posed and appear to be produced only for an anthropological study of tatoo patterns. I was not able to find any Of Barton’s photographs from the Royal Anthropological Institute collection. I wonder what artistic treasures may be there.

Girls as Fairies

Several years ago I visited a medieval fair. It was a modern American version of medieval Europe, censored to conform with modern American concepts of decorum. Therefore, I was surprised to see a booth selling what at first glance appeared to be figurines of nude girls. Then I saw they were not really figures of human girls; each had a tiny pair of gauzy wings. They were actually intended to represent nude fairies. Was it really necessary to put wings on the nude girls and call them fairies?

In my opinion, it was. I would not have been offended by figurines of human girls, but I would have been intimidated about entering their booth and perusing their wares if the figures were displayed as human girls, because I thought others would think it was improper. I had the strange feeling that the other people there felt the same. I felt that nobody who browsed through the booth was offended by nudity, but feared others would look down on them if the figurines represented girls instead of fairies.

I did not get one of the figurines, but I have found other fairy figurines, including this one, at the Mollamari web page.

Mollamari - Young Fairy (2015)

Mollamari – Young Fairy (2015)

Note the attention to detail on this figure. It looks like a realistic figure of a girl, and it may not be immediately apparent why it is a fairy. You can see how the figure was made here, and you will see that the ears—not visible on the completed figure because they are covered by hair—are pointed. If the feature that makes the figure a fairy instead of a girl is not easily seen, is it still better to make it a fairy? In my opinion the answer is yes, but I cannot explain why. This is not logical, but nothing about fairies is logical.

Fairies, elves, and leprechauns are known to occultists as “elementals”, spiritual creatures that are neither human souls nor angels. Some UFO researchers believe that flying saucers are fairies that manifest themselves in an updated form, but still play the same irrational, centuries-old pranks. Although some fairies were thought to be of diminutive size as far back as Gervase of Tilbury (1211), most fairies prior to the 17th century were thought to look much like humans. The de Lusignan family of France, in fact, claims descent from a fairy, Mélusine, who for six days of the week looked exactly like a human. According to Richard A. Schindler, Associate Professor of Art Allegheny College, fairies in art became very popular in the mid-nineteenth century, in part as a contrivance to permit nudity that was becoming unacceptable in paintings of humans. This view is shared by Terri Windling, artist, author, and founder of Endicott Studios, and also by Christopher Wood of the Antique Collectors Club.

It is my personal observation that most of the fairy paintings from the 1860s or earlier portray fairies as adults. Later artists are more likely to paint fairies as juveniles.

Luis Ricardo Falero (1851–1896), was a painter who specialized in fantasy subjects. Most of his paintings are of women over the age limit for Pigtails, but the butterfly girl in this painting appears to be adolescent. Although the fairy is nude, fairy art by this time was not merely a contrivance for nudity. The atmosphere of fantasy and magic is to me the main attraction of this painting. The girl, the butterfly wings, and the flowers, considered separately, are realistic. When these elements are combined in the painting, we go from realism to pure fantasy.


Luis Falero – The Butterfly (1893)

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888–1959) illustrated fairies for children’s books in the early 20th century. Fairy art was still very popular, but was considered especially appropriate for children. I like the facial expressions on the fairies in this painting of a formal procession.


Margaret Tarrant – Lady’s Smock Fairies (c1920)

Cicely Mary Barker (1895–1973) was another popular illustrator of children’s books. The following are from her series of Fairy Flowers of the Spring.

Cicely Mary Barker - Bluebell Fairy (1923)

Cicely Mary Barker – Bluebell Fairy (1923)


Cicely Mary Barker – Daffodil Fairy (1923)

Ida Outhwaite (1888–1960) is the third of the early 20th century illustrators I will include in this post. I did not realize until after I started to gather information that there were so many very good artists who specialized in fairies. These two illustrations are typical of her work.

Ida Outhwaite - When the Fairies Came (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite – When the Fairies Came (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite - Wild Geranium (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite – Wild Geranium (c1920)

Brian Froud (born 1947) is one of the most famous contemporary British fairy artists. His fairies appear to be rustic and mischievous. I like the natural feeling of his paintings. Here are two samples.

Brian Froud - Cover Illustration from Faeries (1979)

Brian Froud – Cover Illustration from Faeries (1979)

Brian Froud - Illustration from Good Faeries / Bad Faeries (1998)

Brian Froud – Illustration from Good Faeries / Bad Faeries (1998)

Erlé Ferronnière (born 1971) is a French artist. His favorite themes are mythology and legend. I think his work is great. It is hard for me to explain why; there is just something magical and otherworldly about his art. The first example of his is this cute butterfly girl.

Erlé Ferronnière - (title and date not known)

Erlé Ferronnière – (title and date not known)

The next is my favorite Ferronnière. Most of the fairies are the wrong age and sex for Pigtails in Paint, but there is a butterfly girl in the lead and a dragonfly girl overhead. Are the fairies kidnapping a human baby? If they are, the baby does not seem to mind. The more I view this painting, the more it draws me into the strange world of fairy.

Erlé Ferronnière - (title and date not known)

Erlé Ferronnière – (title and date not known)

The last artist I want to include is a Japanese artist who uses the name Syuceui. His work is posted on pixiv. You must register on pixiv to view any drawings that feature nudity, but registration is free. Syuceui has realistically drawn girls, but with surrealistic elements such as wings and floating in air. I have included three of his works. All are simply titled Fairy. The last is my favorite. I like the expression on the fairy’s face; it appears she enjoys posing for her portrait. I would like the drawing if it were of a human girl too. If you look at it logically, it essentially is a drawing of a girl. The only things that indicate she is not human are a pair of wings behind her and a frog and mushroom which, if drawn to scale, indicate her size. That is enough to remove her from our world, and put her in the magic and illogical realm of fairy.

Syuceui - Fairy (2015)

Syuceui – Fairy (2015) (1)


Syuceui – Fairy (2015) (2)

Syuceui Fairy (2015)

Syuceui Fairy (2015) (3)


Painting American Beauties: Karen Noles

Karen Noles was born in Nebraska in 1947. She attended the Omaha School of Commercial Art. After graduation, she worked as an artist for the Hallmark Card Company. She then moved to Montana and lives near the Flathead Indian Reservation.

The Flatheads call themselves “Salish” in their native language. Neighboring tribes formerly bound the heads of infants so they would develop a pointed skull. The Flathead people did not bind the infant’s heads, so neighboring tribes called them “Flatheads”. Karen Noles’ models are from the Flathead Tribe.

She writes, “I love painting children because of their innocence, their genuine, honest, and spontaneous response to life.”

The first image is of a girl with hair in traditional braids holding a basket.

Karen Noles "Little White Dove"

Karen Noles – Little White Dove

The next painting, of a girl in front of a teepee, is titled Little Bare Feet.

Karen Noles - "Little Bare Feet"

Karen Noles – Little Bare Feet

Safe and Serene is the title of the painting of an Indian girl holding a young fox.

Karen Noles - Safe and Serene

Karen Noles – Safe and Serene

The next portrait is called Little Bear.  Perhaps it is the girl’s name.

Karen Noles - Little Bear

Karen Noles – Little Bear

The painting of the girl with a cat is Feathers and Fur.

Karen Noles - Feathers and Fur

Karen Noles – Feathers and Fur

The flowers in this painting appear quite large; Little Wildflower may be the name of the girl.

Karen Noles - Little Wildflower

Karen Noles – Little Wildflower

One of my favorites is this cute girl holding a doll.

Karen Noles - Shy One

Karen Noles – Shy One

The girl and the pup both seem happy.

Karen Noles - Innocent Delight

Karen Noles – Innocent Delight

The last painting I will post is Kiowa Babysitter.  Although most of the models are of the Salish or Flathead tribe, the artist sometimes references other Indian Nations in her work.  Most Kiowa live in Oklahoma.

Karen Noles - Kiowa Babysitter

Karen Noles – Kiowa Babysitter

Unfortunately, I was not able to find the dates each painting was completed.

Karen Noles’ web page

Native American Beauties

In the year 1500, Pedro Cabral became the first European in recorded history to visit Brazil. He seemed particularly impressed by the beauty of the Indian girls he encountered, and he wrote,

Aly amdavam antr’eles tres ou quatro moças bem moças e bem jentijs, com cabelos mujto pretos comprjdos pelas espadoas, e suas vergonhas tão altas e tam çaradinhas, e tam limpas das cabeleiras, que de as nos mujto bem olharmos nom tijnhamos nenhuūa vergonha.

The translation, according to Alessandro Zir is,

In that place, three or four young women walked among them, very young and very heathen, with very black hair, long to the shoulder blades, and their shames so high, so shut, and so cleaned from hair that, so well we look at them, we felt no kind of shame.  -Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth Century, a styles of Thinking Approach by Alessandro Zir, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011

The word vergonhas, which he translates as shame, was a euphemism for genitals. Four hundred years later, the Indian girls of tropical South America became a favorite subject for photography. The first photo is of two girls of the Canela tribe in Brazil. The photograph, taken between 1908 and 1946, is from the Coleção Etnográfica Carlos Estevão de Oliveira of the Museu do Estado de. Pernambuco.

(Uncredited) - Canela Tribe Girls

(Uncredited) – Canela Tribe Girls

These Okaina girls were photographed by Thomas Whiffen in 1914 in either Peru or Colombia.

Thomas Whiffen - Okaina girls (1914)

Thomas Whiffen – Okaina girls (1914)

This photo is of a South American dance. It was published in The Secret Museum of Mankind in 1935.

(Uncredited) - Snake Dance of Amazonian Girls

(Uncredited) – Snake Dance of Amazonian Girls

Indian girls impressed early European visitors to North America as well. William Strachey, secretary for the Jamestown colony in Virginia wrote, in 1612, an account of Pocahontas coming to Jamestown naked and turning cartwheels with the boys of the colony:

Pocahontas a well-featured but wanton young girle . . . sometymes resorting to our Fort, of the age then of 11, or 12 yeares…would gett the boyes forth with her into the markett place and make them wheele, falling on their hands, turning their heeles upwardes, whom she would follow, and wheel so herself naked as she was all the Fort over . . . .

Although Pocahontas has been a subject of several artists, she is usually depicted as older and fully clothed.

A statue of a young Pocahontas stands in Gloucester County, Virginia. The sculpture by Adolf Sehring was completed in 1994. This photo is from a postcard by Michelle Harbour.

Adolf Sehringwas - Pocahontas (1994)

Adolf Sehring – Pocahontas (1994)

David McFall made a nude statue of Pocahontas Pocohontas La Belle Sauvage in 1955. However, Pocahontas appears to be about 20 years old in this statue.

In Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians
by George Catlin, first published in London in 1844, Catlin writes of his visit to the Minataree Indian village on the Upper Missouri River. He wrote:

In this manner we were conveyed to the middle of the stream, where we were soon surrounded by a dozen or more beautiful girls, from twelve to fifteen and eighteen years of age, who were at that time bathing on the opposite shore.

They all swam in a bold and graceful manner, and as confidently as so many otters or beavers; and gathering around us, with their long black hair floating about on the water, whilst their faces were glowing with jokes and fun, which they were cracking about us, and which we could not, understand.

In the midst of this delightful little aquatic group, we three sat in our little skin-bound tub (like the “three wise men of Gotham, who went to sea in a bowl,” &c.), floating along down the current, losing sight, and all thoughts, of the shore, which was equi-distant from us on either side; whilst we were amusing ourselves with the playfulness of these dear little creatures who were floating about under the clear blue water, catching their hands on to the sides of our boat; occasionally raising one-half of their bodies out of the water, and sinking again, like so many mermaids.

Catlin was a pianter, but unfortunately did not paint a picture of this incident.

The anthropologist Frederick Starr photographed this girl in Silao, Mexico, while doing research among the Indians in 1896. The image is scanned from the book Partial Recall, edited by Lucy R. Lippard (1992).

Frederick Starr - La Pinta, Silao, Mexico (1896)

Frederick Starr – La Pinta, Silao, Mexico (1896)

Frederick Monsen was born in Norway in 1865. He immigrated to America, and became a photographer. He accompanied the Army on the expedition that captured Geronimo in 1886. He is best known for his early 20th century photographs of Indian life in the southwestern United States. The first two images were photographed in about 1907.

Frederick I. Monsen - Nude pueblo Indian girl holding small child at swimming pool (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen – Nude pueblo Indian girl holding small child at swimming pool (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen - A Study in Bronze (c1907)

Frederick I. Monsen – A Study in Bronze (c1907)

The third image by Monsen was taken in about 1890, and was published in National Geographic in 1921.

Frederick I Monsen - Three naked, Hopi girls sit together on a rock ledge (1921)

Frederick I Monsen – Three naked, Hopi girls sit together on a rock ledge (circa1890)

The photo of this Hopi girl is by Edward Curtis.  Curtis (1868–1952) is one of the most famous photographers to specialize in American Indians.  He began photographing Indians in 1895.  In 1906, J.P. Morgan financed a project to photograph and document as much of the remaining traditional Indian culture as possible.

Edward Curtis - Hopi Angel (c1905)

Edward Curtis – Hopi Angel (c1905)

The next two photos are of Kiowa girls, both from the early 20th century or late 19th century.

(Photographer Unknown) - Kiowa Girl (c1900)

(Photographer Unknown) – Kiowa Girl (c1900)

(Photographer Unknown) - O-o-be-aka Oyebi Kiowa girl (c1894)

(Photographer Unknown) – Oyebi Kiowa girl (c1894)

A photo of an Apache girl.

(Photographer Unknown) - Apache girl (c1880)

(Photographer Unknown) – Apache girl (c1880)

The next photo is from the cover of a book about Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured by the Comanche Indians.  I could not identify the photo or the photographer, but it is not a photo of Cynthia Ann Parker herself.  It is possible that it is her half-Indian, half-White daughter, but that would only be speculation.

(Photographer Unknown) - Comanche Girl (c1870)

(Photographer Unknown) – Comanche Girl (c1870)

Although documenting the photographers and dates of these photos on the internet is difficult, it is our hope that a reader who is expert on South and/or North American Indians might come forward with more definitive information.  -Ron