Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Women: French Etching (1910)

Here we have an anonymous French etching from exactly a hundred years ago of two young ladies very much enjoying each other's company as they engage in some delicate-looking postillionage .  Mass produced erotic illustrations were first produced in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century and, before long, were being produced as postcards in large numbers, thus making the ownership of erotica available to the masses rather than just a few wealthy collectors.

By the time of this etching the invention of small lightweight cameras had made photographic cards the norm so this picture is almost a throwback to an earlier pre-photographic age.

La Femme Damnée by Octave Tassaert

La Femme Damnée (The Damned Women) by Octave Tassaert (1800-1874)

This splendid painting which is attributed (although fairly firmly) to Tassaert shows three women seducing a fourth.  Depicted in an unusual, high angle view, the girl on the left is kissing the seductee and fondling her breast, the girl on the right is kissing her other breast whilst the girl at the bottom has her face firmly planted between her legs.  Some of the girls are naked whilst at least one is still wearing her dress around her hips.

The painting could well be based on a lesbian themed poem by Baudelaire with the same title.  It is on display in the Louvre.

Nicolas-François Octave Tassaert was a French painter although his surname is explained by the fact that his parents were of Flemish origin. It was an artistic family; his grandfather being a sculptor and his father an brother were both printmakers and print dealers.  It was from them that he received his first training.  At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to the engraver Alexis-François Girard (1787-1870) and the studied at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1817 through 1825.  

He was a reasonably popular artist but never received the critical acclaim he wished for.  He painted, largely portraits, religious paintings and genre paintings often featuring melodramatic scenes of the poor.  After 1857 he ceased to exhibit and stopped painting entirely in 1863 to concentrate on poetry.  He became an alcoholic and his eyesight suffered, committing suicide in 1874.

Apart from La Femme Damnée he produced several other erotic works; lithographs in around 1860.

The Jealous Cat

The Jealous Cat is an amusing vignette which shows a ferocious feline attacking the rear end of Mademoiselle's lover in a nasty case of coitus interrupus.  Many single women seem to be attracted to cats as companions but in this case our amorous man has got one more pussy than he was hoping for.

The Cautious Lover

The Cautious Lover depicts a young lady blowing into a condom to get it ready for use.  Inflating them like this was an important test for leaks.  Condoms were rare and expensive at this time and were usually made from lamb's intestine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Été and Pensionnaires: Illustrations for poems by Paul Verlaine

Été (1948)

Continuing our Sapphic theme, this picture by French artist Paul Emile Bécat (1885-1960)illustrates a poem by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) from a series of erotic poems called Les Amies (the girlfriends).  This illustration was for a 1948 edition of Oeuvres Libres which was itself a collection of three series of poems of which Les Amies was the earliest.  

The poem illustrated here, Ete, is one of six poems which make up Les Amies, which were published in 1867 under Verlaine's pseudonym Pablo Maria Herlan.  They were immediately banned in Belgium on publication and weren't publishe again until 1884.  The six poems in Les Amies all relate to lesbian love and are titled Sur le Balcon, Pensionnaires, Per Amica Silentia, Printemps, Été and Sappho.


Et l'enfant répondit, pâmée
Sous la fourmillante caresse
De sa pantelante maîtresse :
Je me meurs, ô ma bien-aimée !

" Je me meurs ; ta gorge enflammée
Et lourde me soûle et m'oppresse ;
Ta forte chair d'où sort l'ivresse
Est étrangement parfumée ;

" Elle a, ta chair, le charme sombre
Des maturités estivales, -
Elle en a l'ambre, elle en a l'ombre ;

" Ta voix tonne dans les rafales,
Et ta chevelure sanglante
Fuit brusquement dans la nuit lente."

Bonnard's interpretation of Été

Several artists have illustrated Les Amies including one of Triple P's favourites, Pierre Bonnard, who produced a series of rose sanguine lithographs over printed typography in 1900.

Printemps (1940)

Eight years before Bécat, Louis Berthommé Saint André also illustrated the poems.  Technically this illustration is for Printemps, but as Été follows immediately on both seasonally and poetically it matters little.

Pensionnaires (1948)

Bécat also produced an illustration to Pensionnaires (boarders), the second poem in the cycle.  he perfectly captures the young bodies of the  teenage boarding school girls.


L'une avait quinze ans, l'autre en avait seize ;
Toutes deux dormaient dans la même chambre.
C'était par un soir très lourd de septembre :
Frêles, des yeux bleus, des rougeurs de fraise.

Chacune a quitté, pour se mettre à l'aise,
Sa fine chemise au frais parfum d'ambre.
La plus jeune étend les bras, et se cambre,
Et sa sœur, les mains sur ses seins, la baise,

Puis tombe à genoux, puis devient farouche
Et tumultueuse et folle, et sa bouche
Plonge sous l'or blond, dans les ombres grises ;

Et l'enfant, pendant ce temps-là, recense
Sur ses doigts mignons des valses promises,
Et, rose, sourit avec innocence.

Bonnard also illustrated the poem nearly fifty years earlier but his schoolgirls are altogether more robust of figure

Louis Berthommé Saint André also goes for the standing pose in his 1940 version. 

Pensionairees by Saint André (1940)


We shall return to Bécat again as his erotic illustrations have a particularly refreshing, Gallic charm.

Two Women by James Baes 1970

Given the ubiquity of girl/girl photographs in current men's magazines it is, perhaps, something of a surprise that the genre had a slow start over forty years ago, when Penthouse published this set.  

This pictorial appeared in the December 1970 issue of Penthouse. and was the magazine's very first girl/girl set.

It was shot, in a rather chilly looking autumnal Venice, by French-born photographer James Baes.

Our heroines in their groovy 1970s fashions are future Penthouse Pet of the Month Lottie Gunthart and German model Eva Zanziger.

Here is Lottie, as Penthouse Pet of the Month in March 1971, also shot by James Baes.

Lottie, on the left in the picture above, also famously appeared as the centrefold in the first issue of Hugh Hefner's magazine Oui, which was designed to take circulation off Penthouse in the US.  

Here is Lottie as Florence Fossorier in the very first edition of Oui in October 1972.  She also appeared in Men Only in 1972 as Florence Maurier.  You can see more of Lottie/Florence on our post on her at Venus Observations here.

It looks far too cold to be getting your bust out in the cemetery!

This picture is the first sapphic kiss in the magazine. Actually, if you look at it closely it's not entirely clear if they are actually making lip to lip contact (its like the famosu Kirk/Uhura kiss in Star Trek!) or not but the intention is obvious!

It's not really quite the weather for dining al fresco, perhaps, but our Teutonic twosome (Lottie is an Austrian) are obviously made of stern stuff.

The photographer said that initially the two girls were rather self-conscious about posing together. 

On the second day, however they started to take over the shoot and suggested most of the poses themselves.

Penthouse, or Baes, seemed quite clear on where they thought they were going, but like the girls themselves, were only dipping their toes in the water very gingerly indeed.

"For a long time I had felt that an intimate relationship between two young women was somehow perfectly natural," he opined, in the particularly pretentious text accompanying the pictorial.

"After all, girls in school are always getting "crushes" on each other- they hold hands, comb each other's hair and generally touch each other a great deal," he continued, breathlessly. 

"Also, it's interesting to note that there's never been any legislation enacted against two women in love, which means it's never been socially unacceptable."  Calm down, man!

"My original plan," recalls Baes, "was to explore the visual harmonics and inherent symmetry of two young females in close proximity."

"I was experimenting with shapes and forms more than anything else."  Then, according to the accompanying blurb the two girls, "began to enjoy being photographed together."

Finally, the shoot over, "Lottie and Eva lingered together in Venice for several days." 

The implication of all this being that by posing naked together the two girls naturally gravitated to each other (as girls do) and finished their time in Venice lost in each others arms. Right.

Two girls and a buoy

All nonsense, no doubt, but it helps get across the idea that these girls are more than just posing naked together; they are in a physical relationship and all without mentioning the L word.

Photographer Baes, the son of a painter, was a fashion photographer for Stern magazine in Germany.  He first got involved with Penthouse when he shot a portrait of Penthouse photographer Clive McLean, his wife Stephanie (the first pubic Pet in April 1970) and their baby. 

He became friends with McLean and when Baes met Hustler publisher Larry Flynt in 1975 he recommended McLean to him. 

We'll always have Venice...

They worked together on Hustler for many years.  Baes became editor of the magazine in the eighties with McLean becoming principal staff photographer.

One surprising postscript is that the pictorial, innocent though it is, attracted some negative comments in the letters pages of the magazine.   One writer from London said; "Alas, the feature was ruined by the pretentious drivel accompanying the photos.  Why can't you print them for what they are- a novel and, to some, kinky way of presenting two pairs of breasts instead of one pair, without all that mealy-mouthed justification for showing two women."

A grumpy Mr Chinnery from the salubrious address of Brooklyn Caravan  Park (that's "trailer park" for you Americans) was even less happy. "A photograph of two females cuddling each other doesn't turn me on.  I feel it needs the caption "give us the tools and we will finish the job".  He added, "I hope it is not your intention to repeat the practice in some future issue of Penthouse."

Maybe Mr Chinnery had more impact than he imagined, as it would be nearly two years before Penthouse risked another two girl pictorial.  That pictorial, "Woodstock Generation" was the first girl/girl pictorial Agent Triple P ever saw, at the impressionable age of twelve.  That pictorial will have to wait for another day, however.

Our friend C (who is our particular friend S's ex-girlfriend) sent me a great find this week.  She had found that pictures from this shoot actually first appeared in the Italian magazine Playmen two months before they did in Penthouse.

They were all reproduced in black and white in the October 1970 issue, which adds to their vintage, arty appeal of course.

James Baes had been the artistic director for Italian Playboy rip-off, Playmen, for a year, previously.

We get the same locations as in the Penthouse pictorials but all different shots of the women.

This one, shot in a graveyard, is very similar but not identical to the Penthouse colour version.

We are not sure who the third woman is in this picture.  The text accompanying the article just consisted of quotes from Italian literature and gave no information about the models at all, not even their names.

Just as in the Penthouse pictorial the girl's hairstyles change from shot to shot, either because they are wearing wigs (there was quite a bit of that in early seventies Penthouse) or, possibly, because they had haircuts during the shoot.  Triple P took a lady to Venice once and the first thing she did when she got there was have five inches chopped off her hair.  Maybe it's something in the air!  

This final shot of the girls with towels around their heads is almost but not quite the same as the final one in the Penthouse set.  Unlike Penthouse, Playmen had not yet gone pubic so the little glimpse here is as much as they could show.

So thanks to C for these; they really are like discovering a lost treasure.  We will look at some Playmen pictorials in the future, over at Venus Observations, as the magazine, which Triple P sometimes bought when working in Rome and Milan, often had some stunning women in its pages. 

Tarzan Meets La of Opar by Frank Frazetta

This unusually explicit watercolour by Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) comes across like a sort of X-rated Edmund Dulac painting.  The jewel-like colours, simple backdrop and strong line contrasts with Frazetta's more usual impressionistic oils. 

La, Queen and High Priestess of the Flaming God of Opar, a lost city and colony of Atlantis in the heart of the African jungle, first appears in the second of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels; The Return of Tarzan (1913).  Because of inbreeding and cross-breeding with apes Oparian women are physically perfect whilst their men are brutish beasts. La, falls in love with the physically perfect Trazan but he rejects her as he is in love with Jane.

Apart from a few bits of jewellery and a splendid serpentine crown, Frazetta's La obviously thinks that the best way to seduce Tarzan is to let him know exactly what she is offering.  And offer she does; invitingly presenting her superbly fluffy pussy towards Lord Greystoke; her divided mound clearly visible.

Frazetta produced quite a lot of erotic art but his very religious wife would not allow it to be published, sadly.

It is said that in the original version of this painting, which was never intended for publication, Tarzan sported a massive erection but when he finally agreed to sell it to a collector he only did do on the basis that he could erase Tarzan's member.

An unusually seductive piece of fantasy art from its great master.