Girlhood as a Marriage of the Sacred and the Profane: Saturno Buttò

Contemporary surrealist painter Saturno Buttò was born in the Portogruaro district of Venice, Italy in 1957. He first began to exhibit his work in 1993, with his first monograph titled Ritratti da Saturno: 1989-1992 (Portraits from Saturn: 1989-1992), a play on his given name. This would be followed by Opere 1993-1999 (Works 1993-1999), Martyrologium (published in 2007), Blood is my favourite color (published in 2012) and finally Breviarium humanae redemptionis, which is currently available for purchase at his website.

Buttò’s portraits often juxtapose style and iconography taken from traditional Christian art with elements of modernity, surrealism and unapologetic sexuality, and this is no less true when the images are of children. The kids—usually girls—in Buttò’s work are both confrontational and loaded with mystery and metaphor. It would be quite easy for shallow and morally sensitive observers to dismiss these works as exploitative and shocking for the sake of being shocking, but that would be a grave mistake. It is the work of artists like Buttò for which Pigtails in Paint was first conceived, those artists who might be controversial and seemingly pugnacious in their depictions of the child’s body, but who nevertheless have something important and honest to say.

These pieces are rife with contradictions and paradoxes which strike at the true core of modern childhood, and girlhood especially, the young girl’s body politicized from so many different angles. In this early piece, we see a toddler girl, Linda, dressed as both a jester and a hamadryad, two personas which couldn’t be more disparate. A tassel suspends from her “trunk” like an oddly low-hanging phallus. In fact, there’s nothing intrinsically feminine about this little toddler. The only hint we have of her femaleness comes from the title of the painting. At this young age, children are fairly androgynous.

Saturno Buttò – Frau, Simon e Linda (1994)

Are they really angels? These little toddlers are dressed as putti, complete with wings attached by an uncomfortable-looking harness. Here we begin to see Buttò’s critique of the way society restrictively frames childhood, especially girlhood, for its own convenience. I suspect the fact that one of the toddlers is indisputably female is no accident either. If we were to move away from the subject of childhood for a moment, this portrait also shows us a realistic and unflattering view of womanhood, as we see Simon shaving her armpit to appease society. On more than one level this can be viewed as a feminist piece, as can many of Buttò’s works.

Saturno Buttò – Simon e tre bimbi (1994)

Here we have a masculine figure holding two more toddlers. Are they twins? Again, note the combination of jester apparel and plants on the children, subtly suggesting that nature is playful and innocent. One can almost think of these children as elves or sprites, beings associated with both nature and trickery, often depicted as children. There’s also something both godlike and satyric about the man in this image. Could this be Dionysus? The title of this peace, Domiziana-Domiziana, is somewhat mysterious. If we were to substitute an ‘o’ for the ‘a’ at the end of these words, we would have the Italian translation for Domitian, a Roman emperor known for his harsh policies and his ruthlessness which eventually led to his assassination. Domiziana would thus be a feminized version of the name, and given that it’s doubled, we can safely assume it applies to the little twins. Surely Buttò isn’t saying that these two little girls are vicious autocrats, is he? But then, toddlers are known for being cranky and demanding.

Saturno Buttò – Domiziana-Domiziana (1997)

It’s quite interesting to see that Buttò’s work thematically ages as many of his recurring subjects mature. Red is a carnal color, and the leather-upholstered throne, which has the little girl’s name on it, is both eroticized and slightly menacing. The little nude Lola herself, brightly lit and tracking something into the otherwise pristine throne room with her bare feet, confronts the viewer with her gaze, her miniature curled pigtails mimicking the horns on the back of the chair. Lola is a force to be reckoned with, and yet she is also vulnerable and defensive, as we look down on her from above, her body turned slightly away from us. Childhood is full of contradictions.

Saturno Buttò – Lola (2004)

This little girl, Solange is again patently feminine, her subtle curves accentuated by the harsh light, and she is also unquestionably a child. She is both confrontational—her eyes meeting ours—and somewhat coy, her face turning away from us. The purple cloak she holds provides a note of nobility as well as echoing certain representations of Jesus. This little girl is both holy in her innocence and sensual in her femininity. She has weight, gravitas. Unlike Lola in the last piece, we are on Solange’s level. Is this an erotic depiction of a child? It depends on how you define erotic. If you mean by that a blatant attempt to turn on the viewer, then I would say no, this piece is not at all erotic. However, to me eroticism is much more than just titillation.

Of course, most child nudes aren’t about eroticism at all, and anyone who sees lewdness in those is certainly projecting. The conflation of simple nudity with sex is mostly an American conceit and demonstrates a simplistic and uninformed view of art. That’s not surprising. Most Americans couldn’t tell their Picasso from a hole in the ground (yes, I’m aware I’ve used that joke before, but I’m quite fond of puns), and they don’t much care. It is all too often a badge of honor for Americans to show just how ignorant and uncultured they really are. Such nuance is beyond them. So they really struggle when presented with an artist like Saturno Buttò, who does invest an element of eroticism in his work but isn’t doing it to sexually arouse. I seriously doubt that Buttò is a pedophile, nor is his work featuring children meant to appeal to them. The idea here is to challenge those simplistic conceptions of the perfectly innocent child which often do more harm than good.

Saturno Buttò – Solange II (2004)

Solange again, this time in the role of the biblical dancer Salomé, who demanded John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Salomé’s salacious dancing done in exchange for John’s head is one of the most famous stories from the Bible and has long been a subject for artists to explore, one of the earliest presentations of the femme fatale in all of literature. It might seem bizarre to depict her as a child, but the fact is we have no idea what Salomé’s actual age is. Knowing what we know about Hebrew customs of the day and interpreting the language of the Bible quite specifically, there’s good reason to believe Salomé was actually a young girl around the age of 12. This puts a completely different spin on the story, doesn’t it? The belief that Salomé was a sultry and experienced woman who used her feminine wiles with some knowing evil intent is one that has developed over time, but the Bible does not actually support that view.

Thus, the seeming contradictions of Buttò’s Lolita-esque Salomé may not be as far removed from the truth as many may think, and that’s the point here. That and the fact that, while we adults may comfort ourselves with the notion that children aren’t thinking dirty thoughts, in reality they are not always as innocent as we might think. It’s interesting to read about the fantasies of young girls with respect to their blossoming sexuality, such as the ones presented in this article. To be sure, acknowledging that children may have a sexuality and that it is often complex is not synonymous with advocating its expression, certainly not with adults. But somehow our culture has arrived at this simple perspective that any intersection of childhood and sex is automatically abuse. It becomes very difficult, then, for artists like Buttò to present a full and honest depiction of childhood, or even of adult sexuality, which is usually rooted in childhood. That picture is left incomplete.

Saturno Buttò – Solange – Salomé (2005)

Danaë is a figure from Greek mythology. Prophecy said that she would bear a son who would kill his grandfather, Danaë’s father, King Acrisius. In order to prevent this from happening, Acrisius locked his daughter in a towering structure without doors or windows, the only entrance being through an open skylight. But naturally, Zeus, being taken with the girl’s beauty, comes to her as a golden rain (no golden shower jokes here, please) and impregnates her, and eventually the prophecy is fulfilled. A frequent subject of classical artists, images of Danaë often include Eros, the love god, who of course is usually represented as a small boy. In Buttò’s piece, it is a little girl  who stands in for Cupid, catching the raindrops in a chalice.

Saturno Buttò – Danaë (2005)

Solange was a frequent model for Buttò throughout 2006. In one we see her as a young saint. In the next, she wears a demonic mask. In the third, she is something between an angel and a demon, a creature which has taken on aspects of both. We can see, faintly, the outline of a uterus. This image can almost be viewed as a throwback (or perhaps a tribute) to the works of the Symbolist painters, for whom woman was both virgin and whore. Only, here the girl is too young to be a whore. The idea is that, beneath her seemingly innocent and childish facade, there lurks a creature on the precipice of sexual flowering. We can see her hips beginning to widen, to take their womanly shape. This is one of the most honest depictions of a preadolescent girl in contemporary art.

Saturno Buttò – Solange (2006)

Saturno Buttò – Solange Mask (2006)

Saturno Buttò – L’età dell’oro (2006)

Solange at the easel. We can almost picture her doing a self-portrait as she examines her own nude body in a mirror positioned somewhere to the left of the picture frame.

Saturno Buttò – Solange al Cavalletto (2007)

And here the girl is about to dig into a blood-red birthday cake. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but I count only nine candles on the cake while the girl is clearly well past nine years—I estimate her age to be between twelve and fourteen here. Intentional or not, I think it hints at every parents’ fear that their child will blossom sexually well before their time. The black-streaked gray Elizabethan wig along with the freakishly organic chair and Buttò’s usual bright red palette gives this image a sort of Bride of Frankenstein feel.

Saturno Buttò – Birthday Party (2007)

Salomé again, even darker and more surreal than the last one. The child rubbing the bristles of the brush against her torso unconsciously echoes a similar scene in the stop-motion animated video for Prison Sex by the rock band Tool. Both the song and the video are about incestuous sexual abuse.

Saturno Buttò – Salomé (2007)

Buttò’s take on a Tarot card: The Star. It’s unfortunate he didn’t do the rest of them. I really would love to own this Tarot deck!

Saturno Buttò – La stella II (2010)

Saturno Buttò – Lola (2011)

Saturno Buttò – Lisa + Alice (drawing) (2014)

Saturno Buttò – Lisa + Alice (2015)

A Little Fairy Postcard

I was sorting some of my art files today and spotted this little fairy postcard. I do not know the artist. One thing I noticed about the little girl is that the artist really feminized her, giving her small breasts and dainty hands and feet. Very Victorian. The background also appears to have been influenced by Asian art.

Artist Unknown – Fairy Postcard

The Child Portraits of Janet Cumbrae Stewart

Janet Agnes Cumbrae Stewart was born on 23 December 1883 at Brighton, Victoria, she was the youngest of ten children born to Francis Edward Stewart and Agnes Stewart. The artist was home schooled through her childhood and from the age of fifteen received private art instruction, with several different tutors, before enrolling with the National Gallery School in 1901. While enrolled there she received many awards, which in turn gave her recognition and thus began receiving painting commissions. Sometime between 1901 and 1906 the illustrator started to use the surname of Cumbrae Stewart. She graduated art school in 1907 and during the same year she exhibited at the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, which was her first group exhibition. During the early part of her career she created paintings to sell in art exhibitions and took commissions for private portraiture work. One exception was when she, along with three other artists, decorated the children’s wards of the Homeopathic Hospital, in Melbourne; one such image is displayed below.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Homeopathic Hospital Panel (1910)

At that time Cumbrae Stewart was mostly working with watercolour or oil paints and her subjects were varied. In 1909 the artist started contributing paintings to exhibitions at the Victorian Artists’ Society, which continued until 1919. Her first solo exhibition was held, in 1911, at Coles Book Arcade and was hugely successful providing her with more popularity and work. Due to her success she was able to become a council member of the Victorian Arts Society from 1914 to 1916 and then became a full member of the Australian Artists’ Association from 1916 to 1922; an honour usually reserved for elite male artists.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Girl in a Ballet Dress (1923)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Mary Quinlan, aged 5 (1919)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Portrait of a Young Girl (Date Unknown)

In 1922 Cumbrae Stewart moved to London with her sister Beatrice. The artist had a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, in 1923, which lead to her inclusion in an exhibition of Australian artists held at the Royal Academy of Art. She was also accepted in general exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Paris Salon. During the period between 1922 and 1939 the illustrator’s work was exhibited at many of the prominent galleries in England and France. So well received were these artworks that she got an Honourable Mention for a drawing entered in the Salon des Artistes Français. Concurrently to these exhibitions she was also sending works back to Australia. Most of these drawings were exhibited at the Anthenaeum Gallery, with other minor exhibitions occurring at Hordern’s Gallery and the South Australian Society of Arts.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Child by the Fire (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Her First Dress (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Young Girl Washing (Date Unknown)

At some point after her arrival in London and 1930 her sister left and Cumbrae Stewart met Argemore Farington Bellairs, also known as Bill Bellairs, who went on to become the artist’s publicist, business manager and companion. They travelled around Europe, living in various areas, before travelling back to Melbourne in 1939. What was to be a short visit became permanent due to the outbreak of World War II. Not much is written about the artist’s life after 1940, though it is known that she was still completing private portraiture work in addition to exhibiting other works. However as she was now 57 years old, her output would have been greatly reduced. Janet Cumbrae Stewart died on the 8th of September 1960.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Pink Bonnet (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Portrait of a Young Girl in a Hat (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – The Blue Bathroom (Date Unknown)

The artist was regarded as a leading artist both in the field of pastel drawings and in figure paintings, though her subjects were much more varied and this can be seen in the website galleries of the Australian Art Sales Digest. Studies of landscapes, still-lifes and portraits are all noticeable. However the most significant part of her collection was dedicated to studies of the female nude, both adults and children, in pastel. The anatomical aspect of these drawings are faultless with the skin tones soft and exact, which would likely be the main reason for her fame. When creating these images she never used photography and always worked from life. This article from The Sun newspaper describes in detail how she worked with her child models. The largest, freely available, article about Cumbrae Stewart that I have found can be found within the Trove Archive.

 

Two Hilarious Recreated Photos

Occasionally on the web you run into articles, often in listicle form, of captured moments from childhood being recreated years later for humorous effect. Sometimes these are awkward and creepy, but usually they’re pretty funny. Here are a couple I’ve pulled off the web recently.  The first one actually reverses the original scene, where the teen boy graduating from high school (I assume) is posing with his little sister. In the recreation, it is the sister graduating, and she’s holding her now much older brother.

Photographer Unknown – 10 Years Apart

The second image is pretty much just a straight recreation, but the original photo—obviously posed by a parent—is much funnier because of the contradictions. The sweet-natured smile on her face does not at all match with her gesture, or with the general context of the image. In the second one she doesn’t look nearly as innocent, of course, which I suppose was the point.

Photographer Unknown – 15 Years Later

Little Red T-Shirt Design

Here’s a reminder that interesting on-topic art can appear even in the most unexpected places. My own t-shirt collection is starting to get old and ratty, so lately I have started perusing some online purveyors of t-shirts. And because I like to support independent artists, my favorite t-shirt shops are Design By Humans and Tee Public. These sites are searchable by subject, and on a whim I started searching for Little Red Riding Hood-related items, of which there were quite a few. But the most interesting one I found was this one by an artist who goes by mankeeboi on that site. I immediately noticed something quite eye-opening about this image: aside from the actual riding hood, the young girl appears to be nude, with her picnic basket strategically blocking her genitalia. Most of mankeeboi’s art is fairly cartoonish; this one was something of an exception to that.

Here is the actual image:

mankeeboi – Little Red (t-shirt design)

I’m half tempted to order this shirt for myself. It’s actually a pretty good design, I think.

Edit: this shirt (and everything else at the site) is currently dropped in price from $20 to $14, so if you want to buy this or any other shirt from Tee Public, now is the time! This sale certainly won’t last forever. – Pip

 

One from Ludwig von Zumbusch

I’ve posted about German artist Ludwig von Zumbusch before. He was a contributor to Jugend, which is how I became aware of him. Ordinarily I crop out the frame if I download an artwork which includes one but in this case I decided to leave it in, mainly because you can see its shadow on the right side and I couldn’t really eliminate that.

Ludwig von Zumbusch – Gemälde – Mädchenakt

Mabel Lucie Attwell

Mabel Lucie Attwell was born on the 4th of June, 1879, at Mile End, London, to Augustus and Emily Ann Attwell. The artist was always interested in drawing and had created a large collection of images by the time she graduated from school. Therefore, she thought that she may be able to sell some of her drawings to supplement her income. She approached an agency for artists who, though sceptical about the sale-ability of the drawings, took some of them. Within a month they had all sold and the agency was asking for more. Soon she was completing enough work, for various publishers, to live on and pay for her study fees.

Attwell spent five years studying art, first at Heatherley’s School of Art, then at St. Martin’s School of Art. The artist failed to complete either course as she had little interest in classical drawing and their other teaching styles, instead preferring to draw from her own imagination. The lack of qualifications did not prevent her from receiving illustrating contracts and was soon commissioned by W & R Chambers to illustrate a series of books. The first was entitled That Little Limb, written by May Baldwin and published in 1905. The image below is a drawing from this book, which when compared with her later illustrations is noticeably different both in style and skill.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – What For Did You Forsake Your Prince (1905)

Whilst studying at St. Martin’s she met Harold Earnshaw, whom she married in 1908. Through her husband’s contacts she came under the management of Francis and Mills, in 1910, and because of their extensive industry contacts and professional handling of her work she was always in demand. Her new managers expanded her work into new areas, which included poster, advertisement and magazine illustrations, with commissions for book work ongoing. The artist’s most recognised book illustrations appeared over the next twelve years; among these titles were Alice in Wonderland, The Water Babies, and Mother Goose. So desirable were her drawings that J.M. Barrie insisted that his publishers approach her and ask her to illustrate a gift book edition of his story Peter Pan and Wendy. The book went on to become a best-seller; the illustrations were some of the most detailed and artistically proficient drawings of her career. Barrie was not the only author to request that Attwell specifically illustrate a book; Marie, Queen of Romania, also requested her services. She provided drawings for two of Marie’s books entitled Peeping Pansy and The Lost Princess.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Oh Dear! Oh Dear! I Shall Be Too Late (1910)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Tom’s Escape (1915)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – May I Come In (1919)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – I Daresay it Will Hurt a Little (1921)

Many book researchers find it difficult to date books from this period since the date was not usually printed in them. However, Attwell has unwittingly provided another method for dating her works. In many of her books the artist would write a dedication to her children as well as draw an image of them, which corresponded to their current ages. For example, below is the frontispiece to The Water Babies. Taking into account that Marjorie was born in 1909, Peter in 1911 and Brian in 1914, it can be assumed this book was published in 1915.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – The Water Babies (Frontispiece) (1915)

In 1911 the illustrator began producing images for Valentine and Sons, a relationship that continued for the rest of her working life. During the 1920s she was producing twenty-four postcards a year for the company. In addition, other drawings were created for their greeting cards, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, plaques and booklets. The Valentine and Sons’ postcards became some of her most sought after as well as best-selling products. Her publishers reported that one design could sell half a million copies each month and they were sold globally.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Just Look at Me — Fido (date unknown)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Broken Doll (date unknown)

The commercial success of Attwell’s images was multifaceted. First there were her subjects: most of her images featured toddlers and young children and the appeal of childhood innocence made the images hugely desirable. Secondly the subjects were often portrayed in a sentimentalised way, which was a style that was hugely popular during the 1920s and ’30s. Additionally, the artist was highly professional when creating her works, often discarding several captions as inferior until she found one that she considered perfect and then created the image. Finally, when producing a design for a postcard she would design it specifically for an adult audience. The images would commonly feature the children in, or talking about, adult situations. I have frequently seen the artist describing this: “I see the child in the adult, then I draw the adult as a child …” which simultaneously sweetens, or makes more tolerable, what would normally be a controversial caption, while also making it somewhat humorous.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Mary Maud Marigold Madeline Marty (date unknown)

In 1922 Cyril Gamon, a publisher, approached Attwell with an idea for producing a children’s book. She accepted and the resulting book The Lucie Attwell Annual became another of her hugely popular products, so much so that it was produced, through reuse of previous material, for a further ten years after her death. During this time it went through several name changes and publishers, which is a matter of confusion for new collectors. The original name was only used over four years, from 1922–26, then it changed titles to become Lucie Attwell’s Children’s Book, until 1932 when Dean and Son’s took over publication and changed the name to Lucie Attwell’s Annual. The drawings that appeared in this book were more simply drawn than her others, largely because the audience had no interest in image quality and it made production many times quicker. The artist drew all of the annual herself and wrote many of the stories and verses.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Lucie Attwell Annual (Cover) (Date unknown)

Throughout the ’30s and ’40s her popularity and diversity of her products increased. Now there were soft toys and nursery tea sets, based largely on her Boo-Boo characters, in addition to plates, biscuit tins and teapots. Additionally,there were china figurines, made by Shelley Pottery and assorted dolls. The artist’s output started to slow down in the 1940s.  By then she was sixty years old and had large royalties coming in. Yet she maintained her perfectionism and the quality of her images never really diminished. One of her new commissions was a comic strip for the London Opinion entitled Wot a Life.

Mabel Lucie Attwell died on the 5th of November 1964. During her lifetime she created a massive catalogue of work, providing images for over eighty books, in addition to forty of the Lucie Attwell annuals, over five hundred postcard designs and countless advertisement and poster illustrations. Most of her work was done in watercolour in conjunction with pen and ink. Since she had children, she got many of her illustration ideas from normal family occurrences; she also had access to a large number of children to use as models, with many of her friends’ children and her own nieces and nephews on hand. A lot of the images seem to use her daughter Marjorie, more commonly named Peggy, as the model. Compare the following two images as an example: one is of Marjorie, the other is a postcard entitled ‘Time for Bed.’

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Portrait of Marjorie “Peggy” Attwell (date unknown)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Time for Bed (date unknown)

There are few resources available for researching this artist and many refer back to the one book, which is also the same book I am basing most of my facts on. The book is entitled Mabel Lucie Attwell, written by Chris Beetles and published by Pavilion Books in 1988. It takes most of its information directly from her descendants and the illustrator’s own personal papers, whilst also displaying approximately sixty of her images. The online resources I used, though brief and occasionally inaccurate are listed below.

Additional online resources:

A Little Russian Princess as the Goddess of Love

Hey, I still have at least one post in my soap series, but I’ve been quite busy and unable to put it together. I know Pigtails is a bit slow right now, as everyone has been fairly busy with their own things. So, I’ll try to do a few minor posts here and there until I get the next big post out.

Here we have the tsesarevna (crown princess) of Russia, Elizaveta Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great, depicted as Venus, the goddess of love. An interesting choice for a child, which just goes to show how very differently past cultures viewed children. Given the style (early Romanticism), even if I had not known who the subject was I would have placed this sometime in the 1700s. She of course appears in the nude, as would be appropriate for classical gods and goddesses in art. Note how the artist depicted the child with exaggerated feminine features, particularly wider hips than would be common for a child of her age.

Artist Unknown – Child Tsesarevna Elizaveta Petrovna, as Venus (1710s)

 

A Specialty for Children: Girls in Vintage Soap Ads, Pt. 2 (Pears Soap)

The second part of our Girls in Vintage Soap Ads series deals with one of the oldest soap companies in the business, Pears. The company was named after its founder Andrew Pears, a London-based barber, who perfected a purifying method for soap in the early 1800s and produced the world’s first translucent soap for the mass market. Pears is still going strong, though it is now based in India and is owned by Hindustan Unilever, a subsidiary of Unilever proper.

With the company’s history established, let’s move on to the advertising art. I can’t make out the artist’s name in our first piece, but I’ve found multiple copies of it online, including both black & white and color versions. The color version required a good deal of clean-up in Photoshop, but I think the results were well worth it.

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – The Order of the Bath (1887)

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – A Specialty for Children (1893)

Here we have another unknown artist or date, but the style is quintessentially Victorian, so I’m dating it to around the 1880s-90s.

Artist Unknown – Good Morning! Have You Used Pears Soap

Here’s another Victorian image, and again, this required a lot of clean-up to remove the watermark, as well as fix some wear and tear. I do have a black & white version with the same watermark I could’ve posted, but I had already invested a few hours in cleaning up images and did not want to delay this post further. Maybe some day I will clean it up and stick it in here.

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – How do you spell soap dear?

Another late Victorian offering. This is actually a riff on an earlier and better known ad campaign by the same company in which a crying baby is climbing out of his tub and trying to reach the soap. (You can see a version of that ad here.) The implication in this ad, however, would likely be controversial today, for good reason.

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – He won’t be happy till he gets it! (1897)

Here are a couple more pieces dating from around the same time period. The first one is cute, but I particularly like the second one. It seems to have been heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painting style.

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – Matchless for the Complexion (1)

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – Matchless for the Complexion (2)

Pears was well known for using existing art in their ad campaigns, right from their first major one, which was based on Giovanni Focardi’s sculpture You dirty boy!  Other examples utilized famous paintings, most famously Frederick Morgan‘s His Turn Next!

Frederick Morgan – Pears Soap – The Bath–His Turn Next! (1)

Frederick Morgan – Pears Soap – The Bath–His Turn Next! (2)

Other ads were based on Briton Rivière‘s Naughty Boy, or Compulsory Education (I’ve also seen it listed on the web as The Reading Lesson, and as having been painted by Charles Burton Barber, but I’m sure this is incorrect—Barber made plenty of paintings featuring little girls and dogs, but this was not one of them) and Émile Munier‘s En pénitence, better known as Sugar and Spice in the Anglo world. For the latter I am including a simple reproduction of the actual painting as I have always found it quite charming. The first ad is pretty much just a straight reproduction of the Rivière painting anyway, save for a tiny Pears logo in the bottom right-hand corner.

Briton Rivière – Pears Soap – Naughty Boy

Émile Munier – En pénitence (Sugar and Spice) (1897)

Émile Munier – Pears Soap ad

This next piece, based on Frederick Morgan’s Over the Garden Wall, although not labeled as an ad, appeared in the Pears Annual (calendar), which could be considered a form of advertising. It also would fit comfortably in my Cherry Ripe! post, as the cherries hint at the erotic—or pre-erotic in this case—which is echoed in the boy’s stolen kiss, a fairly common theme in lighter Victorian art (see also the above ad, He won’t be happy till he gets it!)

Frederick Morgan – Pears Soap – Over the Garden Wall

This illustration I feel fairly confidant in dating to either the Edwardian era or slightly after.

Artist Unknown – Pears Transparent Soap – Matchless for the Complexion

This is probably my favorite of the Pears ads, and it was done by an obscure artist named Bruno Ximenes. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find a decent version of this image. I actually downloaded several versions of this ad at varying qualities, but eventually I narrowed it down to two, and I’m sharing them both. Unfortunately, the best version—the first one here—had a very prominent watermark that had to be removed, and the image required a lot of experimenting to get it to look just right. I hope you guys appreciate the efforts I go to to make sure you get high-quality images. 😉

Bruno Ximenes – Pears Soap – I’d forgotten my Pears! (1)

Bruno Ximenes – Pears Soap – I’d forgotten my Pears! (2)

Early twentieth century ads frequently incorporated both illustration and photography, as is the case here.

Artist Unknown – Pears Soap – Pears Stands Every Test (1908)

This is an excellent transition point as we move into the photographic era proper. Throughout the first half and middle of the twentieth century, Pears’ major campaign focused on little girls and used the tagline: Preparing to be a Beautiful Lady. Obviously such a campaign would not fly today, but it was incredibly successful for the company for decades. This was also done in conjunction with another brilliant campaign that lasted even longer: an annual contest to find Miss Pears, the little girl who would represent the company for the coming year and would often appear in Pears advertisements.

Photographer Unknown – Pears Soap – Preparing to be a Beautiful Lady (1934)

Photographer Unknown – Pears Soap – Preparing to be a Beautiful Lady (1945)

Photographer Unknown – Pears Soap – Preparing to be a Beautiful Lady (1950)

Photographer Unknown – £500 for the Little Girl Who Takes My Place – Woman’s Own (February, 1960)

Photographer Unknown – Pears Soap – Will your little girl be Miss Pears 1965

Photographer Unknown – Pear Soap – Miss Pears 1967

British painter Louis Turpin apparently painted one of the Miss Pears girls in 1986. I couldn’t find any info on the image, so it could just be that the child’s surname happens to be Pears, but it would be unusual to name her Miss Pears in such a portrait, given how famous the contest was, if she wasn’t actually a Miss Pears, so I’m sharing it.

Louis Turpin – Miss Pears on a Lutyens Chair, 1986

Nino Firetto – Little Miss Pears 1987

The Miss Pears Contest ended for good in 1996 as media purveyors became more sensitive to the issue of child sexualization.

Finally, we have a couple of television commercials. As I pointed out at the beginning of the article, the company is now based in India, which means India is now its primary market. As such, most of the ads for Pears are now Indian, including these two.

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Pears Germ Shield Soap TV ad

99 44/100% Adorable: Girls in Vintage Soap Ads, Pt. 1 (Ivory Soap)

There is no shortage of vintage advertisements with adorable little girls in them, but those old soap ads seem to be particularly charming. And it so happens that there are tons of them from the major soap brands like Sunlight, Packer’s, Fairy, and most prominently, Pears, easily found on the web. We’ll get to all of these in upcoming posts, but today’s post is devoted exclusively to one of the biggest soap brands of all time, Ivory.

Ivory Soap was first manufactured by the J.B. Williams Company in 1840 under the name Ivorine, but this didn’t last long. The company soon sold its rights to the soap to Procter & Gamble, who eventually changed its name to Ivory. Ivory Soap is known for two famous slogans, “It Floats” and “99 44100% Pure.”  The latter was especially popular for years.  In the ’50s and ’60s their main slogan became “That Ivory Look”, which was associated with the smooth skin of infants and considered the ideal for women.

Most of the early ads were of course illustrated, often by some of the most notable names in the business. One of those was Irving Ramsey Wiles. While he later became a successful portraitist, his early career was largely devoted to magazine and ad illustration, such as the following two variants of the same piece:

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(1)

Irving Ramsey Wiles – Baby’s Ivory Bath ad (1898)(2)

Another major illustrator who did illustrations for Ivory Soap was the ever-prolific Jessie Willcox Smith.  Here are three from her all done right around the turn of the twentieth century.  Note: a full-color illustration by Smith also featured in an ad for one of Ivory’s major competitors, Pears.  It’s already been posted here once, but I will likely link to it again when I make the Pears post.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1902)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ivory Soap ad (3)

This next piece, although labeled as a Smith illustration when I found it, is not actually her work.  The artist’s name in the bottom left-hand corner, although difficult to make out, appears to be Albert Herter, which makes sense as Herter was definitely a contemporary of Smith and is known to have been a prolific illustrator in his own right.  And although all of the advertising info has been cropped out, you can see that the theme of the piece is the children’s bath.  The young woman here looks to have her hands full with all the kids waiting to be scrubbed clean by her.

Albert Herter – Ivory Soap ad

Yet another highly productive illustrator who did several pieces for Ivory Soap was Alice Beach Winter.  Although no dates are given for any of these, we can judge from the style, and from what we know of Winter, that these are either from the Edwardian period or slightly later.

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (1)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (2)

Alice Beach Winter – Ivory Soap ad (3)

I do not know the artist for this next illustration, but again, it’s from the same time period.

Artist Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1916)

Our final Golden Age illustrator is Clara Elsene Peck.  Like Jessie Willcox Smith, Peck focused primarily on the lives of women and children, which made her a natural fit for illustrating Ivory Soap ads.  I especially like this first piece, which I’m posting two different versions of.

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (1)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (2)(1918)

Clara Elsene Peck – Ivory Soap ad (3)

And now we move on to the era of photography with a trio of ads featuring images by unidentified photographers.  By the ’50s it became fairly commonplace for advertisers to stop displaying the names of artists, especially photographers.

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1951)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap ad (1959)

Photographer Unknown – Ivory Soap – You can have That Ivory Look in just 7 days

But here is one of the exceptions.  Francesco Scavullo’s work was so well-known and prestigious in the ’60s and ’70s that he has been identified as the photographer in these ads.  The idea of mothers competing with their little daughters to look youthful would later become controversial with feminists, of course.

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (1)

Francesco Scavullo – Ivory Soap – Can you compete with your daughter’s “Little Girl Look”? (2)

Edit: I had intended to add this to the post originally, but it was not yet ready. So I am adding it now.  I had another commercial I wanted to post but its size exceeds the limit for upload so I will simply link to it. – Pip

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Ivory Soap Commercial (1960)