We’ve seen a lot of anti-slavery and abolitionist art and other media, but there’s pro-slavery art and media out there too.
A Fetlife post directed me to an entire page of Victorian paintings about slavery, or rather the Romanticized European view of slavery in “the Orient” or in ancient Rome, which was also a vehicle for female nudity. (Contrary to popular belief, Victorians had no problem with nudity if it was within the proper context.)
The page is in Turkish, but there’s little text anyway.
A post on Vegan Times got me thinking about the use of the naked human body. “An Open Letter to PeTA” makes a feminist critique PETA’s use of sexualized imagery in its ads against animal cruelty:
Like animal exploitation, which turns non-human individuals into objects of consumption for humans, patriarchy as a cross-cultural and trans-historical phenomenon has always involved the ‘thingification’ of women’s bodies, manifested either through outright ownership (by husbands and fathers), or through widespread sexual objectification. Both non-human slavery and patriarchy are heavily steeped in the fetishization of violence. It would seem, then, that an organization ostensibly committed to the eradication of animal exploitation would also support the eradication of gender hierarchy. Yet judging from your track record, this has not been the case.
It’s been said that Hallowe’en is Christmas for queer people, but if there’s a holiday for kinksters, it is Good Friday. This is the day when a man was tortured to death for trying to get people to be nice to each other.
While I don’t have this quite figured out yet, I get the impression that the primacy of the Passion, the story of Jesus Christ’s betrayal, murder and resurrection, was a late medieval invention, and earlier depictions of Christ in graphic art and storytelling focused on his life as teacher and miracle-worker. The violence of the Passion came later. One person I know suggested that the cult of the Passion coincided with the Crusades, violent art reflecting a violent society, or even as intentional anti-Semitic propaganda.
A quick sampling of the other posts on the A Carrefour Etrange blog:
L’Étrange aventure de Miss Alice Simpson by Jean Bustarès, from 1922. No word on the story, but the pictures seem strongly on femsub and whipping. Illustrations by Gaston Smit alias Georges Topfer.
La Comtesse au Fouet (The Countess of Whips) is more of a mixed bag, with both femsub and malesub. Illustrations by Martin van Maele. Originally published 1906.
Les Malheurs de Colette by Aimé van Rod, published in 1914 (reissued 1928) and illustrated by Georges Topfer.
The Au carrefour étrange blog has several scans of vintage bondage and flagellation erotica from France. One of them is Les Confidences de Chérubin by G. Donville, originally published in 1939 and featuring beautiful spanking, lingerie and maid illustrations by Cheri Horouard, aka Herric.
This is a great reissue the less fortunate will be able to buy, for lack of the original edition that not only is rare but does not approach within 100 euros you.
In addition to this text very pleasant, originally published by the great Jean Fort (Nettles White etc..), Whose narrator, Peter Thiverny tells, from initiation to sensual pleasure in voyeurism (parents) and the discovery of female buttocks (the young Monique and her swing) to various sexual practices including spanking with many companions of passage, and more so, this beautiful edition reproduces illustrations from the original edition (1939) Cheri Herouard (signed Herric).
[via Google Translate]
While most of the illustrations are set in the present day, the one above indulges in Orientalist fantasy with the appropriate props.
Retrospace has a selection of scans, and not just the covers but the interiors, of old mens adventure magazines, variously known as pulps or sweats.
You can see earlier pornographic genres embedded in here: the same combination of xenophobia mixed with wish-fulfillment in The Lustful Turk, Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk and so forth.
I’m still working up to reviewing Donna Dennis’ Licentious Gotham: Erotic Publishing and its Prosecution in Nineteenth-Century New York (Harvard University Press, 2009), but I want to post something on a sculpture mentioned in the book called The White Captive by Erastus Dow Palmer.
It portrays a youthful female figure who has been abducted from her sleep and held captive by savage Indians. Hands bound, and stripped of a nightgown hanging from a tree trunk, she turns her head away from the terror, and clenches her left fist, in defiance of imminent harm. Palmer avoided the often cold appearance of Italianate Neoclassical sculpture, in part by using for his model a local girl. He was particularly commended for his use of a “thoroughly American” subject that makes a conscious allusion to the endless skirmishes between Native Americans and white pioneers. It is these naturalistic and individualizing qualities that have, down through the years, earned such praise for Palmer’s sculpture.
According to this article, it was based on Hiram Power’s Greek Slave (previously discussed). True or not, there are definitely similarities in composition and posture. The main difference is that in The White Captive, the woman has her left arm behind her body, fist clenched in defiance. Like Power’s work, this was publicly exhibited to men, women and children.
What’s interesting here is that two different artists used a very similar image, a nude woman in distress, to address two different conflicts, i.e. Greece’s rebellion against Turkey and the various battles between Americans and First Nations peoples in the West. The latter conflict was also reflected in the captivity narrative genre. These, in turn, are related to the “held captive by Catholics” stories: virtue in distress from a threatening Other population.
As discussed previously, this kind of imagery is used in a wide variety of contexts and to refer to a wide variety of real-world conflicts. It is thus hardly surprising that these images percolated through the collective subconscious, via the Anna Freud process described earlier.
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