burned into my brain (model comparisons)

L@L   Madame D' S. Maurice

 I collect tintypes and daguerreotypes, antique images, especially of pretty ladies. They sometimes end up on one of my canvases. But I collect them because they are beautiful, even arresting. They seem to speak to me, about many things. Over time they have become not just objects of beauty, but reminders of who we once were and where we came from. In spite of all of its faults, the Victorian era was a time when Western society, even some of the French, venerated and protected women because of a now nearly lost concept of chivalry, which had been forged during the early Middle Ages.  

This all sprang from the teachings of Christ, who had single-handedly lifted women from slavery to equality. The altar of sacrifice had been exchanged for one-on-one worship, where women and men were equals before God. Women were accepted within the inner-circles of spiritual discipleship. Polygamy was abandoned, and women were no longer worked and disciplined and traded around like livestock. Men were to love only one wife, and love her like Christ loved his flock... that meant to be willing to die for them. If the Holy Grail was not centered in Mary the mother of Jesus, it was the symbol of every woman, as the vessel of human life. Women were more than equals, they were the precious source and nurturers of humanity... and men their providers and protectors. Child bearing and raising was the most essential function, and those duties being necessarily delegated to the female, men were to work the land, defend the home, feed the family, and had to answer to God if they failed in that assignment. Somebody had to be charge, and since women were occupied with such critical duties, the men were assigned hard labor and hunting, and keeping God's Law. Some people today question the chain of authority and the assignment of responsibilities, but it worked pretty good for two millennia. 

It is true that not all men, even Christian men understood this, but they were all gradually being reformed and led that direction by the New Testament. Victorian times were the last vestige of this ancient paradigm, where Western culture still reflected the dress and mannerisms of this unique, highly formalized society which had developed for almost two thousand years. Today the only place you can still see this in its old glory is the Vatican and its related institutions.

Wars and conflicts over religion, "religious wars," a grievous oxymoron, so hardened and disillusioned most of Europe that the population began to despise and turn away from the church in a steady falling away which left most of Europe apostate. Morals quickly returned to old pagan standards. 

Queen Victoria made a heroic effort to save Western culture from this slippery slope, but her ideals and solutions were eclipsed by scientific theories and technological advances which lured men farther into self-reliance and unbelief. Still the artistry and pageantry of that time was the culmination of hundreds of years of fashion design and experimentation. This was a time when women dazzled men with their clothes on, and they did it with many charms, mind, body and soul. It was a golden era of holistic female glory.

So all of that infatuation I have for that era has driven me to some degree as a professional artist.  And these tintypes I discovered, as I fed my infatuation, led me to create this blog.

It all started when I was reading several books about Texas women, and one night while checking my favorite searches on an Internet auction, I saw a familiar likeness staring back from my computer monitor. One led to another. Each led to a solid conviction that some of them had to be just who I thought they were. Ironically one of the first was one I cannot prove. I saw the model in Edouard Manet's famous bar scene...

 All we know is that she was called "Suzon," and her boyfriend insisted on being present when Manet painted her. (He knew Manet's reputation!) The painting on the right may or may not have been her. But this lovely barmaid sent me excitedly on my quest. So I began to search for images of French models... many of which were actually aspiring artists who ended up posing for the masters.

Then I soon found another...Victorine Meurent was another of Manet's models. Perhaps his most beautiful. Soon I learned that there is a mountain of confusion about who-modeled-when.. and that may have been by design, whenever a controversial nude surfaced. Contrary to everything you have read, I am SURE she was NOT the model for Olymipia. Below is a collection of images of her face... some by the two artists who worshipped her most.

Parisian Sphynx by Alfred Stevens. Obviously Meurent.

The discovery of a tintype of Alfred Sevens led me to Fanny Eaton, the only model with African ancestry. IRONICALLY, later I learned that there were two artists named Alfred Stevens, and one was a sculptor in England and the other was a painter in France and Belgium. Even false clues rendered encouraging results! The discovery of so many photographs including women eventually came to mean that whoever put this collection together, was interested in the contributions of women, as much as, or more than  the men. Unlike the typical focus of publishers of the time, every opportunity was made to include women artists, and the wives. girlfriends and muses of the male artists. 

Rosa Corder, the budding artist who agreed to forge Rossetti sketches to make some fast cash. Later she was immortalized by Whistler.

Jane Morris, who modeled for her husband William Morris, but left him to marry and model for Dante Rossetti. I seem to have found bookend images, before and after her prime.

Camille Monet often modeled for her husband.

Then it got absolutely crazy! This tintype made me KNOW that I was on to something, as here was a rare image of Genevieve Mallarme... and nobody could look like her!  And next to her the beautiful Julie Manet. Pretty people are sometimes difficult to tell from one another, but unique, interesting faces set themselves apart. Child Hassam was one of the "THE TEN" in the United States.

Suddenly I was identifying French artists and models every time I searched... Of course I knew by now I had found a honeyhole!

Prominent, legendary French artist's models showed up four-abreast! This was too incredible! Standing is Mery Laurent (1849-1900), model, muse and madam of a popular salon where artists and writers congregated. She was romantically linked to Manet and later to Stephane Mallarme, noted French writer and patron of the arts. On the left Paule Gobbillard (1867-1946), on her knees in the middle is Lise Trehot (1848-1922), and very young (13-14?) Julie Manet (1878-1966) on the right. The tintype on the far bottom right got away before I realized WHO it was! Gobillard is around 25, and the two older women are in their early 40's, but still very attractive.

 It may have been Laurent who was the unofficial matron of the Impressionists... Her salon was frequented by Whistler, Manet, Zola, and of course Mallarme, and other forces in French art. Here is Alfred Stevens's version of one such parlor...

Long-suffering Aline Charigot Renoir takes your breath away... and shows how masterful Renoir was... at painting women as well as picking them.

But beautiful French women were not all that had been collected. There were artists and art dealers, art patrons... and some women who were both patrons and models...

It is as if someone  was able to retrieve the very photos the artists may have used for reference. This one by Mary Cassatt.

And another by Cassatt's mentor Degas...

Note that in almost all portraits, even self-portraits, the artists were not that obsessed with achieving an exact likeness. It seems the Impressionist's goal was more of a caricature... Degas painted himself  numerous times... always exaggerating his features... One sitter once looked at his rendering of her face and exclaimed "I've never had a nose like that!" This could well be that instance.

Note the photos look more like the tintype than the self-portraits.

Felix Vallottan nailed his own likeness... Most of the artists seemed to try to hide or reduce their ears. And why not?

Pierre Renoir and son Jean, sitting for a photograph with the Gobillard sisters. Perhaps they wanted to model for him.. or were looking for a job as babysitters. The families were intertwined as a true network. But about this time, wife Aline's cousin Gabrielle Renard got both slots.

And there were more. Suffragists, writers, spies... it was quite a learning curve to invade a foreign society and become familiar enough to organize all these faces! I will share the American images in the next chapter.

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