Sunday, December 9, 2007

Antiquarian Assets

Ruven Afanador cites vintage postcard erotica in the photo (right) of Crystal Renn from December's Elle Italia.

Renn's womanly curves prove an ideal subject for this allusive portrait. Her body type, while still an anomaly in modern fashion photography, is the epitome of the preferred turn-of-the-century physique.

It is generally agreed that France was the provenance of erotic photography and the nude postcard, and that the erotic photographic postcard as an art form originated with the invention of the Daguerrotype. Although called "cartes postale," the cards could not be legally sent through the mail.

The poses used in nude postcards may be generalized as either arranged (often referencing classical art) or natural, with E. J. Bellocq's Storyville series a major example of the latter. Here, Renn is arranged in a dark example of a classic pose. While the vintage model looks almost beatific, Renn's expression is far more sensual. Posing with bouquets was commonplace in vintage erotic photography, implying the ripe bloom of femininity. Afanador replaces flowers with a black fabric suggestive of a funereal sheath, lending his portrait a slightly corrupted air of sex and decay.

It seems clear that Afanador has more than passing familiarity with the art of the erotic postcard, much of which was done in anonymity, and that he saw in Renn the perfect subject for associative commentary. The photograph might be said to address the metamorphic nature of female beauty over the past century, tethering Renn to the corporeal form of her curvaceous erotic sisters.

Images: Crystal Renn, Foto Decadent
Erotic postcard from Vintage Pulchritude


riz said...

Ripe bloom indeed. Interesting that they couldn't be sent via the post. I'm so frustrated. You are such a prodigious blogger I will have to take a time-out and read through all of your brilliant posts that I have missed!!

PS- It would be cool if you could explain your use of the word 'metamorphic' in the last para. at some point.

Suzanna Mars said...

Riz, if I were in grad school it would be unlikely that I'd have time to post more than once a week, or at least post something with any content.

You are a scholar and I'm a sketcher. Five hundred words or less, unlike your dissertation!

I meant that there is a reversal between woman and child,and back again with Renn (and others)relative to what is considered the "ideal" body type for any era. And it has gone backwards, so instead of having the child's body (which is boyish) develop into that of the lush woman, we have the woman vanishing back into the child.

Claire (Enchant and Doom) said...

This is great, I love vintage erotica. I also like your metaphorical explanation, as I appreciate anything that makes me think...

Suzanna Mars said...

Claire, there's a lot of vintage erotica floating around the Net. That site I linked has a great deal of it to enjoy.

riz said...

Actually I'm going to do a follow-up post based on your repsonse sometime in the near future. Now if I can only finish this damn paper I could read your blog.

Suzanna Mars said...

Paper, first, Riz, paper first. Academia needs more like you.