Girls of the Naga Hills

The Naga Hills of northeastern India and adjacent parts of Myanmar (Burma) are the home of several ethnic groups that collectively call themselves Naga. Pigtails has published several articles on ethnographic photos and ethnographic contrivances, and such photos are fairly common from the Americas, Africa, Australia, and the Pacific. Not as many are found from east Asia, perhaps because girls in that region are usually clothed as completely as girls in the Western world. Naga girls were an exception. Several ethnologists have published works on the Naga people. At least two of them, Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf and John Henry Hutton, have photographed quite a few posed portraits of girls.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Two Girls Standing in front of a House (1936-37)

Of the twelve photos in this article, eleven are by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf and only one was taken by John Henry Hutton. The reason is that the best quality photographs that I could find are those of von Fürer-Haimendorf. Von Fürer-Haimendorf first visited the Naga in 1936; his last expedition to the Naga Hills was in 1970. He took over 10,000 photographs, many of which are online at University of London SOAS.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Two Small Girls on a Platform (1936-37)

John Henry Hutton documented the lives of the Naga in the 1913 to 1928 period. Neither he nor von Fürer-Haimendorf were artists in the strictest sense, but both seemed to try to pose models for an aesthetically pleasing photograph. Judged by their artistic merit, I believe that Hutton’s photos are at least equal and probably superior to von Fürer-Haimendorf’s. Unfortunately, the Hutton photographs available at the University of Cambridge Digital Himalaya project are low quality.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Procession of Girls Carrying Wood (1936-37)

Two Girls Standing in front of a House is the first photo in this article. Note that the most necessary adornment for the prepubescent girl consists of necklaces and earrings. Postpubescent females, like the one on the left, almost always wear at least a skirt in Naga photos I have seen. Von Fürer-Haimendorf posed his models well; I like the contrast between the folded arms of the woman and the elbows out posture of the girl. I think it would have been better if he had not cropped the photo at the ankles; it makes it look like their feet were cut off.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Two Girls, One with Curly Hair (1936-37)

Two Small Girls on a Platform also has a problem with cropping. The girl on the left has the top of her head cut off. Other than that, it is a very nice picture. I like the expression of the girl on the left; it looks like she is trying not to laugh. There are some small black dots on the right side of this photo as it appears at University of London SOAS. Although both girls are quite young, one is fully clothed. The photos I have seen indicate that as a general rule children go naked and adults are clothed, but there are exceptions to that rule.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Naked Young Girl with Necklace (1936-37)

Procession of Girls Carrying Wood is, in my opinion, a well composed picture. If a painter were to copy one of the photos in this article, Procession of Girls Carrying Wood might be his best choice. They are carrying a lot of wood, but do not appear to be overburdened. The girl on the left wears a very small skirt. These minimal skirts are common in photos of young women and teenage girls.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Untitled (1936-37)

Naga people usually have straight hair. When von Fürer-Haimendorf found an individual with curly hair, he found it to be noteworthy. He found three curly-haired Nagas, two men and one girl, whom he photographed. Photos of the men are both head and shoulders portraits, while the picture of the girl is full length. Both girls in Two Girls, One with Curly Hair are at the age when girls are most often depicted wearing skirts, but only one has a skirt in this photo. It’s a good image, even though the subjects are poorly centered.

J.H. Hutton – Untitled (1913-28)

Young girl with Necklace is a simple yet pleasing photo. It is well-centered and well-cropped. However, the image is appealing more for the beauty of the model than the skill of the photographer.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Row of Girls Dancing in Festive Attire on a Platform (1936-37)

The next photo is the only image by von Fürer-Haimendorf that is untitled, and the only one of his in this article that is from University of Cambridge Digital Himalaya project. Like the previous photo, it is well-centered and well-cropped. I find the pensive attitude of the model intriguing.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Three Little Girls (1936-37)

The next photo, by J. H. Hutton, is also from University of Cambridge Digital Himalaya project. The style is much like von Fürer-Haimendorf’s, even the cropping off of the girls’ feet.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Small Girl with Bamboo Fibres in Her Hand (1936-37)

Row of Girls Dancing in Festive Attire on a Platform is another example of von Fürer-Haimendorf’s method of centering his subject. There is plenty of empty space on the left, but the dancer on the right is only half visible in the image. The dancers wear “festive attire”, and are therefore more dressed than most other girls in these images. The robes of the girls on the right are open, and it appears that their fancy dress is for ornamentation rather than concealment.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Three small girls on a platform (1936-37)

The last four photos are of younger girls. That last is one of von Fürer-Haimendorf’s few color photographs. Note that the middle girl in Three Little Girls wears only earrings. Maybe she is not as rich as the other girls who have necklaces, or maybe it is just because she is younger. Little Naga girls have short hair, while the older girls wear their hair longer.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf – Little Girl – Colour Photograph (1936-37)

Manon Gropius, the Muse

The Wikipedia entry for Manon Gropius lists her occupation as “muse”. It was not an occupation for which she was paid, but she did inspire works of music, literature, and sculpture.

Anonymous – Manon Gropius as a Baby (1917)

Alma Manon Anna Justina Carolina Gropius (nickname Mutzi) was born in Vienna, Austria in 1916. She was the daughter of Walter Gropius and  Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius. Manon’s father, Walter Gropius, was one of the outstanding architects of the 20th century, and the founder of the Bauhaus school of art. Manon’s mother, Alma Gropius, was a composer, diarist, and socialite. Alma Gropius was an attractive woman known for a scandalous life of adulterous affairs and multiple divorces. Alma began an affair with poet Franz Werfel in 1917. Werfel was the father figure during Manon’s childhood.

Anonymous – Manon Gropius, Anna Mahler on Right, and Two Others (1917)

Manon’s parents separated when Manon was two years old. Her early childhood was spent traveling between her mother’s three homes, two in Austria and one in Italy. She was short-tempered as a young child. At age five Manon decided that she wanted to be an actress, and that was her goal for the rest of her life. Alma was quite proud of her daughter Manon’s beauty, and she allowed Manon to go naked as much as possible.

Anonymous – Manon, Grandmother Anna Sophie Moll, Sister Anna Mahler in Venice (1922)

Manon mellowed as she entered puberty. She developed an interest in religion. Although she had been baptized as a Protestant, Manon felt that the Catholic concept of spirituality was more compatible with her. In 1932 she converted to Catholicism. Manon’s kindness, innocence, and beauty made a deep impression on people. The author Elias Canetti described 16-year old Manon as “an angelic gazelle”.

Anonymous – Manon Gropius Naked (c1923)

Canetti considered Manon to be the opposite of her mother Alma. Alma, in Canetti’s opinion, viewed Manon as just another trophy of which to boast; like Alma’s expensive possessions, and the many men with whom she slept. As Alma aged her ability to manipulate men with her beauty waned. Alma apparently hoped to continue to manipulate men, at least vicariously, through her beautiful daughter Manon. Manon, however, was developing into a very gentle, non-manipulative young lady.

Anonymous – Manon, Franz-Werfel, Alma Werfel in Venice (1924)

Franz Werfel seems to have had a deep platonic love and respect for his stepdaughter Manon. He compared her to saints, especially to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of animals. This was because Manon had a remarkable affection for animals. Manon loved animals, and animals loved her. It is normal for a girl to love her pet cat, as Manon did, but Manon’s empathy with animals extended much farther. Domestic dogs and cats that did not know Manon would follow her. She could approach wild animals that normally fear people. Her affection was not only for cute animals like dogs and cats, but even included snakes.

Anonymous – Walter Gropius and his Daughter Manon Gropius at Dessau (1927)

In the spring of 1934 Manon caught polio in Venice, Italy. She started to recover to an extent, but other complications arose, and she was in poor health for the rest of her short life. She died a year later on Easter Monday 1935. She was eighteen.

Anonymous – Manon Gropius and her Cat (1932)

Franz Werfel and composer Alban Berg were both at Manon’s funeral, and both vowed to memorialize her in art. Berg had been working on an opera at the time of Manon’s death. He quit working on the opera and switched to composing a violin concerto in memory of Manon. He completed the concerto Dem Andenken eines Engels (In Memory of an Angel) before he died on Christmas Eve, 1935. Critics of classical music consider Berg to be one of the great composers of the 20th century, and Dem Andenken eines Engels is considered to be his greatest work. An article in Pigtails about Gilbert O’Sullivan’s muse Clair Mills provoked controversy due to differing interpretations of the lyrics expressing love for Clair. Dem Andenken eines Engels uses programmatics in the music, rather than lyrics, to express love for Manon, and has not aroused any controversy of which I am aware.

Anonymous – Manon Gropius on a CD Cover for Berg’s Violin Concerto (no date)

Werfel took longer to write his novel as a tribute to Manon. In 1935 he planned a novel about a fictional 17th century saint, but it was still only a plan in 1940. By that time Europe was at war, and Werfel was among the refugees fleeing to neutral Spain. On the journey to Spain he stopped at the French village of Lourdes. There he heard the story of the teenage girl, St. Bernadette Soubirous, who in 1858 encountered the Virgin Mary at a grotto near the village. Werfel changed his plan from a novel about a fictional saint to a novel about a real saint, and completed writing Das Lied von Bernadette in 1941. Das Lied von Bernadette is what we would now call a historical narrative; the main events and characters are real, but details and conversations have been added to give the characters a personality and make them seem alive to the reader. The personality given to St. Bernadette is that of Manon Gropius. Das Lied von Bernadette was translated into English as Song of Bernadette in 1942, and was number one on the New York Times best seller list for thirteen weeks. Song of Bernadette was released as a movie in 1943.

Manon Gropius has also been memorialized in literature in the Nobel Prize winning memoirs of Elias Canetti. Canetti devotes two chapters of his memoirs to Manon. Manon’s World : A Hauntology of a Daughter in the Triangle of Alma Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel by James Reidel (2021) is another novel about Manon Gropius.

Manon’s half sister Anna Mahler sculpted a statue of a young woman holding an hourglass for Manon’s gravestone. This statue was destroyed by bombing during the war, before it was ready to be placed on Manon’s grave.  After the war Manon’s father, Walter Gropius, designed the Bauhaus style marker currently on Manon’s grave.

Random Images: Raffael Esquivel

This artist contacted me to express an interest in getting his art presented in an article on this site. Raffael Esquivel is an illustrator living in Costa Rica. According to his Behance account, he is available for hire and told me that he intends to do a series of pieces that are on-topic for Pigtails hopefully warranting more coverage and getting his name out there. Below is the image I believe is most relevant to this site so far. Also interesting is an image called Wolf girls.

Raffael Esquivel – Fairy Child resting (2021)

Random Images: Vadim Vyshinsky

A reader found and shared this delightful artist with us. Vadim Vyshinsky (Вадим Вышинский) (b1967) says he never studied art anywhere and apparently has artistry in his blood. Both his mother and father draw and exhibit and he has traced his family from a long line of artists back to the 16th century. He became an officer in the Russian military and retired at the rank of colonel to pursue his art full time.

Many of his images feature boy and girl children captured in a moment of action or in fantasy themes. The image below is especially delightful. The figure with its exaggerated posture and erect pigtails simply exudes joyful energy.

Vadim Vyshinsky – Счастье (Happiness)  (date unknown)

To see more of his work simply click the link on his name above.


Slavica Janešlieva’s Cut-Out Paper Pioneer Doll Kit

Slavica Janešlieva was born in 1973 in Skopje, which was then in the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, one of six republics that were united in Yugoslavia. Skopje is now in the independent Republic of North Macedonia. In 1998 Janešlieva earned a master’s degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje. In 2011 she became a professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts, at the University of St. Cyril and Methodius. Her art has been displayed in exhibitions and museums around the world.

Slavica Janešlieva – Cut-Out Paper Pioneer Doll Kit (2006)

Slavica Janešlieva spent her childhood in a relatively stable, though authoritarian country. The government of Yugoslavia tried to encourage the people to accept diversity. Even though the Yugoslav ethnicities had traditionally been enemies, it was hoped they could learn to live and work together in harmony. During the Cold War, Yugoslavia was not aligned with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. As a result, both the United States and the Soviet Union sought the friendship of Yugoslavia. In the 1990s, the dream of different peoples living together in a peaceful stable country came to an end.

Anonymous – Slavica Janešlieva as a Child – (circa1983)

I believe that to understand Cut-Out Paper Pioneer Doll Kit it is necessary to know some of this background information about the artist’s country. Yugoslav Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia until 1991. From 1991 through 2019 Skopje was in the Republic of Macedonia. Greece objected to the name, because a region in Greece is also called Macedonia. The name was changed in 2019 to the Republic of North Macedonia. The country could accurately be called West Bulgaria, because the ethnic Macedonians are Bulgarian. They may not have wanted to name their country West Bulgaria out of concern that Bulgaria would object or try to annex the country (which they did during World War II). Albanians are the second largest ethnic group in North Macedonia; there is antagonism between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.

Perhaps Janešlieva has some nostalgia for the old Yugoslavia. Note the Pioneer Pledge to “love and cherish our homeland ‘my MBC’ and all its nationalities and ethnic groups.” Note also that the map of the Make Believe Country is a map of the former Yugoslavia. The doll’s nudity implies a vulnerability. A real paper doll has clothing that can be cut out to fit on the doll. In this work, the blouse, pantyhose, and shoes could not fit the doll.

Cut-Out Paper Pioneer Doll Kit was exhibited at the Bitola Museum in Bitola, North Macedonia in 2015. It was part of the “In-First-Person” exhibit for self portraits of contemporary Macedonian artists. I don’t know if the girl is really from a childhood photo of Slavica Janešlieva. Here in the USA most people don’t have nude photos of themselves as children. It may be different in North Macedonia.

Františka Drtikol

Czechs seem to have a knack for photography. Rudolf Franz Lehnert and Jan Saudek have already been featured in Pigtails. Josef Větrovský may be the subject of a later article in Pigtails. These are not all of the famous Czech photographers, but they are some that included young girls in their work. For a country with a current population a little over 10 million, this is a remarkable concentration of photographic talent. This article is about some young girl photographs of the Czech photographer Františka Drtikol.

Františka Drtikol – Ervínka (no date)

Františka Drtikol was born in 1883. He studied photography in Munich as a teenager, and in 1901, at age 18, he opened his own studio in his native town of Pribram. In 1907 he moved to Prague. Drtikol began his career in the Art Nouveau style, and was an early advocate of Art Deco. Much of his work was of portraits and female nudes. Drtikol was an active photographer until 1935, when he abandoned photography for painting and study of Buddhist philosophy. Drtikol died in 1961.

Františka Drtikol – Ervínka Standing (1928)

Františka Drtikol’s daughter Ervínka was the model for some of his most expressive portraits. The first portrait of Ervínka is not dated, but was probably photographed about the same time as the next two, which are dated 1928. The fourth photo is titled Malá Ervínka (Little Ervínka), and appears to have been taken several years earlier. The fifth is a photo of Ervínka in an Art Nouveau style costume. It is titled Dcera Ervínka v Otcově Ateliéru (Daughter Ervínka in her Father’s Studio).

Františka Drtikol – Ervínka Sitting (1928)

Františka Drtikol – Malá Ervínka (no date)

The first nude of Ervínka Drtikol has a title that translates as Ervínka with Cubist Decorations. Františka Drtikol was into most of the avant-garde art movements, including cubism. The following photo is a New Year’s card and the title translates to Nude – Happy New Year.

Františka Drtikol – Dcera Ervínka v Otcově Ateliéru (no date)

Františka Drtikol – Ervínka s Kubistickými Dekoracemi (no date)

The last two photos in this article are an untitled nude, and one simply titled Nude Girl.

Františka Drtikol – Akt – Šťastný Nový rok (no date)

Františka Drtikol – Untitled (no date)

Františka Drtikol – Nude Girl (1928)

Merry Christmas: A Gift from Graham Ovenden

One of my contentions—which I perhaps do not mention often enough—is that the reason true artists produce their art is something akin to compulsion. There is something in their psychology that drives them to do it. To my mind, it is a valuable form of exorcising one’s demons and, by extension, that of society. I was quite distressed to learn that health concerns in the past year have made Graham quite frail (not connected to the extant coronavirus). For a time, his shoulder was too stiff for him to work and I became quite concerned that he would go mad (balmy to you Brits out there) if he were forced to stop painting permanently. Fortunately, things got a little better and one of his most ambitious projects is a triptych recently completed and given as a gift to his younger sister.

Graham Ovenden – The Wind (2021) (left panel)

Graham Ovenden – My Sister’s Ghost Arising (2021) (center panel)

This center panel is meant to depict Graham’s sister in her youth kicking a ball to another younger sister who passed away when she was young (figure on the right).

Graham Ovenden – Moon Jumping (2021) (right panel)

Not only can cows jump over the moon; girls can too which I’m sure many readers will agree is a more delightful metaphor.

Graham Ovenden – Triptych (2021)

The works were produced in oil on prepared paper laid down onto board or plywood. Graham says,” The three panels are very much a depiction of childhood freedoms and wonder.”

Happy Christmas to all! -Ron

Random Images: Waltham Watches

This item has been on my radar for a while and I keep hoping that a better-resolution image will appear on the internet. So perhaps someone out there has a good scan of this because I have seen this ad many times on the secondary market.

There is a long tradition of using the images of children to sell things and when the children are naked, it helps emphasize something specifically. In this case, the idea is that the watch will last a long time and this sweet little girl will still be using this reliable device even when she is grown up.

Waltham “Bare Facts” campaign ad (1968)

[20211231] A couple of readers have located a slightly-better version of the image which I have replaced above. Thank you, -Ron

Random Images: Charles Wilp

Here’s another contribution by Moko. Below is a photo taken for a political campaign of Rudolf Werner in 1972. This stark composition appears to be a popular motif in postwar Germany. The contrast between the innocent and vulnerable children against the ominous gas masks representative of industrial war-craft is compelling. I recall a similar image in the film Peppermint-Frieden (1983). This photo originally appeared in the German publication Spiegel.

Charles Wilp – Kandidaten-Foto für den Bundestagswahlkampf (1972)

Random Images: Chinese Ethnography

This is a contribution from Moko (cleaned up by Pip) of a postcard being sold on Ebay. It not only illustrates how tribal people in remote areas may have less inhibitions about nudity but how photographers from so-called civilized areas might exploit this for monetary gain or fame in the name of scientific ethnography. After all, this did not appear in some text in an academic tome, but put on a postcard that could be disseminated publicly. Nothing is really known about the provenance of this image but the seller claims it is over 100 years old.

Antique photo postcard of Chinese girls

To my eye (correct me if I am wrong) these girls are not Han Chinese—the dominant population in China—so the photographer was most likely English but there is a remote chance that he/she was Chinese.