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.)


Random Scenes: Desire

The criteria for whether a film portraying a little girl gets reviewed is pretty straightforward: they are the lead of the film or are in an important role as a catalyst to the story. Sometimes there are noteworthy short scenes (or montages) in films—usually in the form of flashbacks—which are important in informing the story. Many of these are worth mentioning but do not really warrant a full film review.

In this case, because of a recent controversy, I have the materials for Desire (Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana, 2017) on hand and thought I would begin with it. The film is an Argentinian erotic thriller directed by Diego Kaplan. Predictably, the director got into hot water for shooting a scene with two little girls—one of which is depicted as experiencing her first orgasm. A reasonable argument can be made for including the scene as it informs the motivations of one of the protagonists in the rest of the film which, after all, it is an erotic drama.

There is an article by Erin Nyren in which Kaplan responds to accusations of child pornography. In it, he insists that the girls had no idea what they were portraying and were properly supervised at all times. One of the director’s statements is quite apt:

Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity. -Diego Kaplan, Variety, June 30, 2018

Two sisters, Ofelia and Lucia, are watching a John Ford film.

Erika Halvorsen and Diego Kaplan – Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana (2017) (1)

Erika Halvorsen and Diego Kaplan – Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana (2017) (2)

One of them gets the idea to build a horse out of pillows and begins riding. The sister follows suit, somewhat less enthusiastically.

Erika Halvorsen and Diego Kaplan – Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana (2017) (3)

Erika Halvorsen and Diego Kaplan – Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana (2017) (4)

The sister is confused and alarmed by the behavior and reaction of the other girl. When the girl (rather comically) falls of her ‘horse’, mother is called.

Erika Halvorsen and Diego Kaplan – Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana (2017) (5)

Believing the girl had an epileptic seizure, mother rushes her to the hospital. In the narration, the protagonist explains that after that day, she has been seeking that experience of ‘fire’ ever since.

Far from being child pornography, as some claim, the scene does nonetheless make some valid comments about sexuality: 1) girls often do experience their first orgasm at such an age—sometimes incidentally while riding horses, 2) in the story, it is explained that the girl was medicated and that speaks to how our society pathologizes sexuality, 3) the reference to an epileptic seizure is also interesting because it is now understood that, biochemically and neurologically, such a seizure closely resembles that of a real orgasm. Some speculate that epilepsy is simply part of the normal orgasm reflex gone haywire.

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 3

In the third part of our Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art series (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively), we’re taking a look at three more identifying characteristics of this kind of art.  We’ll number them nine through eleven. Let’s get right to it.

9) The presence of creepy, exotic or overly cute animals – This element stands in contrast to more straightforward images of kids and animals together, which tend mainly to feature commonly domesticated beasts like horses and dogs.  Frequently these animals become metaphors for or pointers to, if not direct participants in, youthful sexuality.  There are a number of ways we can read this, and not all of these images are based on the same motivation, but I think it’s safe to say that the main idea here is tying child sexuality to something disgusting and inhuman.  The important takeaway, however, is that such artworks do not ultimately deny the existence of child sexuality; they simply seek to oppose it by associating it with the vulgar and off-putting parts of nature, the critters that horrify and disgust us.

Notice that the walking stick is dangling from the girl’s unusually red and fleshy lips. Subtle, no?

Ana Bagayan – Phasmida

Ana Bagayan (Official Site)

Like moths to a flame . . .

Jana Brike – I Am Your Moonlight and Flower Garden

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Take note of the serpent in the background here, very much reminiscent of a certain devious tempter in a certain garden. If the crocodile devours her vine-like tears, do they then become crocodile tears? Don’t feel sorry for this little fairy. She’s deceiving you.

Hsiao Ron Cheng – Crocodile Is Eating My Sorrow

Hsiao Ron Cheng (Official Site)

Nothing at all Freudian about this image, right?

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Incanto

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Incanto (detail)

Nicoletta Ceccoli (Official Site)

Fish and other slimy sea creatures appear often in these artworks. I propose they are both a sign of corrupted (and corrupting) femininity and a symbol of the subconscious mind, which generally manifests in this work as murky water. But we’ll get to that in time.

KuKula – The Little Tailor

KuKula (Official Site)

Melissa Haslam – Girl with Fish

Melissa Haslam (Official Site)

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Lorelei

Ana Bagayan – Undersea Moon

Even when the fluffier, cuter animals (domesticated or otherwise) do appear, often they still become unwitting tools in the child’s sexual awakening, thus undermining the myth of perfect childhood innocence.  This would be a more mature approach than the disgust-by-association method of the images above, if not for the fact that all too often the artists tend to play these as humor or satire.

Rats are another animal usually associated with disease and corruption.

Audrey Kawasaki – Ratgirl (2005)

Audrey Kawasaki (Official Site)

Lola Gil – Punchy

Lola Gil (Official Site)

Gilles Vranckx is mostly known for serious images of women in erotic poses. This little girl and her rabbit companion have a noticeably different effect than his usual work.

Gilles Vranckx – Innocence

DeviantArt: Vranckx

Cats have a longtime association with feminine sexuality, but here that association becomes satirical.

Jana Brike – Aphrodite with Kitten

Mike Cockrill – Kitten Cuddle (2006)

Mike Cockrill (Official Site)

KRK Ryden – Double Talk

KRK Ryden (Official Site)

10) General sense of unease and nonreality – This one perhaps should’ve been number one, as it really is applicable to almost all of these works, but I’m providing them in no particular order.  One thing I’ve noticed about many of these pieces is that they often juxtapose cuteness or beauty against the more somber or horrific elements, which creates a sense of unease, or cognitive dissonance, which I suspect is entirely the point.  When we think about child sexuality, cognitive dissonance can arise in the friction between unsolicited (and unwanted) sexual feelings and the feelings of guilt and shame that accompany them, or that we believe should accompany them.  This is a difficult dynamic to depict in a straightforward way, hence these various symbolic interpretations. Because this description encompasses pretty much the entirety of this artistic movement, I’m going to keep the examples to a minimum here.

There’s something reminiscent of Donnie Darko in those hanging rabbits, which, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know has a subplot in which a prominent character is revealed near the end to be a pedophile. I’d again like to point out that many of these images feature more than one of the traits I’ve been outlining, such as the animals and the suggestions of violence in some of the following examples.

Ramis Kim – Where is the Bunnyman That I Saw Yesterday?

Flickr: Ramis Kim

Hiroyuki Mano – Mofumofu

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Hsiao Ron Cheng – Dinosaur Is Eating My Friend

KRK Ryden – A Sunday Drive to Hell (1998)

Finally, a nice pared-down example of the sort of juxtaposition I’m talking about: this cute cartoonish little girl wouldn’t be out of place in a children’s book if not for the (I assume) menstrual blood gushing down her leg.

Cornelia Renz – Sunny Side Up

Cornelia Renz (Official Site)

11) Confusion of adult and child roles – Another recurring characteristic of this art is the placement of adults in the role of children and the placement of children in the role of adults, especially the latter.  These pieces often covertly delineate the fear many modern adults feel of being supplanted (sometimes violently) by younger generations and the dread of the physical and sexual vitality of youth. Children become powerful in these images, while adults are depicted as weak.

Caleb Weintraub – Down with Escapism

Caleb Weintraub (Official Site)

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Mercurial Waters

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Mercurial Waters (detail)

Mark Ryden (Official Site)

Scott G. Brooks – Little Lyndie Lou Hoo Plays Army (2005)

Scott G Brooks Studios (Official Site)

Mike Cockrill – An Artist with Flair (2008)

Maiden Voyages: December 2018

It has been very aggravating for me not to have the time to give Pigtails in Paint the attention it deserves. Lately, I have been busy with professional development courses so that I can do my job effectively.

Keeping Their Distance: If museums and libraries can’t keep controversial (but historically relevant) materials safe from destruction, who will? Perhaps some readers are aware of the bizarre Chadwick Hall image of Samantha Gates that appeared in Taschen’s 20th Century Photography. The book was meant to showcase a collection of photos donated to the Museum Ludwig in Cologne by collector L. Fritz Gruber. When inquiries were made about the possibility of other images in the museum’s collection, the employee in question said the museum was trying to distance itself from parts of this collection and added that that particular photo was “disgusting”. It is unfortunate that employees, docents or curators should be allowed to work for institutions whose materials they have little regard for.

Nothing New Under the Sun: Anyone who knows anything about history realizes that the whole debate about the eroticization of children is hardly a new one; it simply manifests itself in different forms. There is an interesting essay about childhood innocence in connection with vintage postcards.

Promoting Sex Trafficking? Netflix’s new series ‘Baby’ is accused of promoting sex trafficking. A statement was released by The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) condemning the Italian drama series. The program centers around two teenage girls from a wealthy part of Rome who are drawn into the city’s underworld. NCOSE is claiming that the show glamorizes the teenagers entering into prostitution as a coming-of-age story.

The Pigtails Film Archive: A lot of tips come my way, mostly in the form of individual artists or films. In light of the tendency for the more controversial materials to “disappear”, I immediately seek out copies and keep them in an archive for later review. For a while now, I have wanted the over 400 cataloged films on hand to be published temporarily until a more complete review can be written in the main body of the blog. This should help us avoid duplication of effort as well as encourage people to come forward with genuinely fresh leads. The titles and short details will be added a little at a time in the coming month. In addition, I will be introducing a ‘Random Scenes’ category as a counterpart to our ‘Random Images’ to accommodate short posts that deal with intriguing short scenes featuring little girls but do not warrant a full review.

Spike in Visitors! I don’t know if this is good news or bad, but our technical staff has informed us that we had a record number of visitors (for a single day) last month, with over 5000 visitors. This is the highest it has been since we were hosted in the U.K.

Random Images: Natalia Kharitonova

The following photo, Burnt by the Sun by Natalia Kharitonova, won Third Prize in a jury selection at the New York Center of Photographic Art last summer. It was recently censored by Instagram shortly after it was posted. In private emails from Instagram, the artist was advised that it was necessary to cover up the breasts of children, and therefore posting it was “unethical”. Kharitonova responded that, “It’s not ethical for me to just draw triangles on children …” Of course, Instagram is a private company and so little can be done about it at the moment. For the time being, it does still appear on Facebook, but who knows how long it will be able to remain there.

Natalia Kharitonova – Burnt by the Sun (2018)

Random Images: Jonathan Pasqué

With the continuing advance of technology, there are always new ways to express one’s artistic intentions. The irony here is that this artist should use such technology to convey a message that makes us contemplate our own humanity.

The ‘Nu du Ciel’ series of nudes were shot from a camera-mounted drone popular these days with techno-geeks and scenes were set up on the ground to create amusing compositions normally observed from a perpendicular view. Included is this one charming shot of two children. I recommend taking a look at this installation; it will make you chuckle.

Jonathan Pasqué – Nu du Ciel 3 (2018)

Pasqué shares his thoughts about the significance of nudes on his website. Here’s an excerpt translated into English thanks to Christian.

We never stay indifferent in front of a nude. Sculpture, engraving, painting, photography, no matter the form, the nude attracts the eye. Certainly because man is a sexual being. But how to innovate in this art that has gone through the ages? By propelling it precisely in the air of time, in the era of drones! … These nude bodies seen from the sky, staged in varied landscapes, put in light all the beauty and richness of our planet. Their nudity is like an echo to the fragility of our environment. To remind us that, if the earth still has the look of Eden, it is time for us to change our lifestyles and consumption if we want to safeguard this true paradise …

Ivar Arosenius: Kattresan

I am a regular reader of the French blog Les Éditions du Faune devoted to art and literature. On September 27 it published a good article on an interesting Swedish painter, Ivar Arosenius, who lived only 30 years.

Born on October 8, 1878, he started to study art at age 17; as an independent mind, he attended different schools until he returned to his old teacher who respected his freedom to explore his own fantasy and imagination.

Arosenius mostly painted in watercolours, experimenting with motion, texture and colour. He showed a surreal world which mixed fantasy and reality; in particular he illustrated fairy tales. He also worked for the press by producing satirical caricatures of Swedish society; however he never got a secure place with a journal, as his works, appearing as simple humour, were probably too subversive for a conservative society.

Ivar Arosenius with his daughter Eva (c.1908)

His family paintings show a completely different side of the artist, soft and tender. He often represented his wife Ida Andrea Cecilia (nicknamed Eva) as a fairytale princess or as a Madonna holding their child. He also lovingly painted their only daughter Eva Benedikta Elisabeth (1906–2004), better known by her nickname Lillan.

Ivar Arosenius – Little Girl in Front of an Open Chest of Drawers (1907)

Ivar Arosenius – The Girl at the Door Interior of the Artist’s home, Älvängen (1908)

Ivar Arosenius – Lillan in the meadow (1908)

Arosenius’ most famous work is an illustrated tale that he wrote for Lillan: Kattresan (The Cat Journey), about the adventures of a little girl riding on her cat and discovering the world. A scan of it can be seen on the Swedish Literature Database (see the links on the right for the navigation through its 42 pages). I show a few pages from it; clearly the little girl looks like Lillan.

Ivar Arosenius – Kattresan, page 1 (1909)

Ivar Arosenius – Kattresan, page 7 (1909)

Ivar Arosenius – Kattresan, page 15 (1909)

Ivar Arosenius – Kattresan, page 33 (1909)

His wife and friends urged him to publish the book, so he set to improve the drawings, but he could not finish this work, as he died in the night from January the 1st to the 2nd, 1909 from the complications of haemophilia. The book was published posthumously the same year, and it brought fame to Arosenius. Indeed, in May, the Academy of Arts organised at last an exhibition of his work.

I found out that Arosenius made another version of Kattresan for Lillan’s twin cousins, one of whom was named Johanna, or simply Hanna or Hansan. Her grandson published 8 images on his blog from it.

Finally I show two pictures of Lillan in her teens. First a painting of Lillan with her cousin Hanna:

Anton Dich – the two 15-year-old cousins Hanna Gottowt and Lillan Arosenius on the French Riviera (1921)

Next an undated photograph of Lillan from around the same time:

Lillan Arosenius (c.1921)

Maiden Voyages: November 2018

Too Short A Season: It has been my goal to manage this site so that models and artists understand that their work is presented with respect, regardless of content. Because we are examining the portrayal of little girls in our society, I felt it important that Pigtails in Paint should be a place where women can be heard and listened to and that they feel safe doing so. On occasion, former models have come forward privately or publicly to share anecdotes or request mementos of their work. Recently Makenzie, a cousin of Samantha Gates, came forward to tell me she was starting a site dedicated to Sam and wanted help contacting artists who used her image in their work. It was fun learning about the various jobs Sam did that no one outside the family knew about and will hopefully one day appear on that site. But after exchanging only a few messages, I got an email from one of her friends Amanda (who has been commenting on this site lately) telling me that Makenzie’s stomach cancer has taken a turn for the worse and that she was in the hospital. I have been informed that she passed away last month survived by a loving extended family and many friends. It is too bad I did not get to know Makenzie better and hear more stories of her girlhood memories. This is the third person I know this year who succumbed to cancer, all before their time: first my youngest aunt, then Poli Papapetrou and now Makenzie. It is said that the world changes one funeral at a time. But what kind of world will we have when it is the good people who leave us?

Life as a Girl Decade after Decade: Pip uncovered an interesting project intended as a book series sharing the testimonial of girls in America living in various decades the past 100 years. The first book, Girlhood in America, shares over 50 stories of life told by the girls themselves and includes a number of photographs as well.

Happy Halloween 2018!

Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween from all of as at Pigtails in Paint! Careful on those roads tonight. Watch out for little witches and goblins! Now, enjoy these vintage Halloween cards from Ellen Clapsaddle.

Ellen H. Clapsaddle – A Jolly Halloween (card)

Ellen H. Clapsaddle – The Highest Expectations for Halloween (card)

Ellen H. Clapsaddle – Halloween Greeting (card)

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.