Ask Morgana 072: Farewell to Edwardiana
The Edwardian girl walking away from the camera is a fitting way to end this sequence of photographs from that era. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have. Please feel free to browse ‘backwards’ in this blog, and let the images, themes, and names take you on an internet search for more. The photographic record of the era is extensive, and much of it is here on the internet. I have tried to find themed photographs, looking for the beautiful, and sometimes the erotic, in as many different settings as possible. I have often surprised myself by what has turned up in searches.
If you want to find more for yourselves, you could do worse, for example, than googling Phyllis Monkman, seen on the left here in costume for The Butterflies in 1908. There are some wonderful pictures of her out there, as there are of all the ‘stars’ of that era. But I have been fascinated just as much by finding beauty in everyday scenes; there is not so much of that, as most photos were posed for back then.
Have you enjoyed this sequence? Please don’t be shy of letting me know – just see the ‘Contact Me’ page – nor of asking any questions you may have about the subject matter. My door is always open, as is my mind.
What next? Well, as I hinted a few posts ago, I am going to start a sequence of posts about erotic art. I hope that those of you who have followed my Edwardian sequence will stay for this – and please do invite others to join the party if you wish. My aim here will be to feature the work of artists who have interested and fascinated me with their ability to portray overt or subtle sexuality or eroticism in their work, particularly in the way they depict women. For example, I will at some time in the future feature the work of Olivia de Berardinis, whose visual references to fetishism are obvious; but I will also feature artists whose work shows a less overt erotic flavour.
Erotic art is a field that is not without its controversies, prominent amongst which is the issue of ‘objectification’. For me, that is not necessarily a problem. A painting, drawing, or sculpture is an object, it functions as an object. A human being is not an object, a human being has personal qualities beyond physicality. Therefore there always has been a tension between a work of art as an object, and its subject, which may be a human figure. Every work of art is a statement of priorities, not always fathomable. The human figures in prehistoric cave paintings may depict something everyday and vital to the painters who created them, may even have a spiritual significance; the figure of a Byzantine emperor, kneeling to present the model of a church to Christ, has a significance for the onlookers of the day from which we are at arm’s length. Art depicting women is as old as art depicting anything; art depicting women in nakedness has been with us since before the classical age. Yet also with these representations we can find ourselves at more than arm’s length from the intensions of the artist and the understanding and interpretation of his or her contemporary viewers. What, for example, is the significance of the 16c portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrées (left), now hanging in the Louvre in Paris? What do the precise gestures mean – the companion’s holding one of the lady’s nipples between finger and thumb, echoed by the lady’s grip on a finger-ring? What does their nakedness signify, and their calm, frank stares towards the viewer? These things are arcane.
The artists I will feature have produced works which interest me. They will range between the exploitative and the exploratory. I will try to interpret what I see, including what I see as problematic. I would be interesting in your reactions.
Responding to a questioner about ‘the lifestyle’: What is my attitude to branding?
In general I do not agree with the inflicting of irreparable damage upon a submissive, whether or not there is consent. Allowing a tattoo showing allegiance is one thing, messing around with knives and branding irons is another. I do not countenance it. I hope that answer helps.