Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Morning Frolic

I found this print on the Lewis Walpole Library and it sort of cracked me up. Why is it that women wearing men's accessories is somewhat saucy, while men wearing women's is just preposterous? Case in point:

A few points to note: Often in eighteenth-century artwork, a pair of discarded stays visible in the picture (here, between the critters on the left-hand side) indicate that the woman pictured is a prostitute. The fact that the man is an army officer somewhat goes to corroborate that (often stationed away from home...they get lonely...). So, we can interpret this picture to be of a whore and an army officer, the morning after she's rendered services, having a bit of fun. A bottle of wine sits at the upper left, while a silver serving set (possibly for chocolate) sits behind them.

One element I love about this print is how both not only wear the accessories of the opposite sex--he has her ornate cap and fan, she dons his military cocked hat and sword--but have also adopted the body postures. He sits demurely, feet together, with his body partially obscured by the fan. She stands assertively, feet planted firmly apart, hands on her hips (in the eighteenth century, hands on hips was considered a masculine stance--ladies folded their hands in front of them, much as the officer is doing).

The book reads "Ovid's Metamorphoses done into English." Ovid's stories often displayed how love--or lust--made people do very silly things. Clearly.

My one question, for all you art folks out there--what to make of the parrot and the whippet/miniature greyhound? Animals in art often have representative roles, but I'm not sure about these. Thoughts? Or are they filling the oft-used "dog piddling in the forefront" role of eighteenth century art (often cartoons will include a dog in the frame--often piddling--to show a sense of realism, and, when piddling, a sense of displeasure with the scene).

PS I love her purple shoes.


gentlewomanthief said...

I'm afraid I don't have any clues for you on the animal front, but I LOVE this print! Have never seen it before, so thank you very much for sharing!! Though, prints like this make me want to do a course on gender studies, which is surely not a good thing when I should be workin!

Her shoes ARE fabulous.

Arabella said...

This is saucy, indeed. I wonder if the pets are an indication that she is a favorite prostitute, and that her 'suitors' bring her presents. Judging by her attire, she is a wealthy prostitute (could be wrong, but those shoes are rather nice!)

Lua said...

This one cracked me up, I loved it! :) I certainly am no expert but perhaps the parrot represents mimicking since they are mimicking opposite genders?