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Pin-Ups of the Past
March 14, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

In our continuing series on pin-up girls of the past (previously and previously previously), this lady's costume was a source of some puzzlement. Welcome to the wonderful world of Poses Plastiques.

This vaudeville and music hall form enjoyed at least equal popularity in the US as in the UK, though Stateside the performances were generally billed as "Living Statues". Originating in the 18th and earlier 19th century society pastime of recreating classical scenes and art in tableaux vivants, canny vaudeville and music hall promoters eventually monetized the concept by giving the people what they wanted--naked(ish) ladies, and lots of them.

Famous poseuses included the pioneering Emma Hamilton and Clara Ward, Princesse de Camaran-Chimay (whose elopement with her second husband is commemorated in a delicious cake), and perhaps the most celebrated exponent of the form, the Australian performer, Pansy Montague, "La Milo".

The form survived well into the twentieth century in burlesque and vaudeville. Nude women posed "artistically" on the stage of London's Windmill Theatre throughout World War II. But what the Blitz couldn't shut down was finally swept away by competition from the less static nekkid performances made possible by laxer censorship on public nudity.
posted by Sidhedevil (23 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah! I assumed she was dressed up as a Telenoid robot. This is way less sexy.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's chorus girls all the way down....
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2012


Will pay top dollar for vintage photo of chorus girl pyramid in turtle/elephant cosmology outfits.
posted by griphus at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is fun! Thanks for posting it. :)
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on March 14, 2012


Cosplay was so much cooler back in the day.
posted by Fizz at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


ANd it' still going on today, at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California. And of course, in 2003 at the Festival of Living Art in Stars Hollow.

That second town might not exist in our universe...
posted by foonly at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2012


ANd it' -> And it's
posted by foonly at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2012


Victorian-era gay men also benefited from the argument that there was nothing sexual about this form of sex work. Many a scene included not just Eve in fleshings, but Adam in fleshings, his body also exposed to the male audience. A few male pose models, such as the equestrian Andrew Ducrow and “The Modern Hercules and the Perfect Man” Eugene Sandow, became popular and toured internationally for audiences which were mostly, but not all, female. Open homosexuality would have been scandalous, but men could perform in lewd situations and costumes for other men so long as everybody pretended it wasn’t sexy.

Victorian Anglos were such a messed up, crazy bunch. But of course, the more things change...
posted by codacorolla at 10:00 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eugen Sandow is a whole other story in himself. There are a couple of really fascinating books about him! I didn't include him in this because he generally moved in his vaudeville performances (doing different poses designed to show off his muscular development, and sometimes lifting weights as well), but he certainly made plenty of coin on his (perhaps NSFW, depending on your workplace) photographic recreations of classical statuary, as did (similarly potentially NSFW) many of his colleagues in body-building.

The sense I get--and this may be inaccurate--is that sexualized male poses plastiques were mostly to be enjoyed in private as photographs, whereas the female equivalent was considered appropriate for public performances.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


They do allow some nervous crying, but you can tell they don’t like it.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:09 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Very interesting, although I think I would prefer to have a Japanese Garden.
posted by chambers at 10:11 AM on March 14, 2012


if this spins off another post about homosexuality in the Athletic Christianity and Fitness movements of the Victorian era I may just die.
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't even think of the poses plastiques when reading the previous FPP, simply because I'd always heard of them being done in the all-together with a light dusting of body powder, rather than a body stocking, and always with the figurative fig-leaf (as opposed to the literal one, which might be employed as well) that they were simply portraying Adam and Eve's fall or classical or neo-classical statuary.

Also, from one of the Sandow links:
Audiences might be in awe of the hundreds of pounds that Luis Cyr could lift, but the barrel-shaped Cyr’s sex appeal was nil.
HA HA HA HA HA
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


ANd it' still going on today, at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California.

Dear God. Tell me there really is a "Wee Britain" somewhere in Orange County where people drive on the left.
posted by Naberius at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny how yesterdays titillation has become todays art. I don't see that happening for our present smut.

But it does put Michelangelo's works in a different perspective.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:06 AM on March 14, 2012


Funny how yesterdays titillation has become todays art. I don't see that happening for our present smut.

psycho-alchemy, the burlesque of the 40s & 50s is already stylized as performance art. There are vintage smut sites that specialize in 70s-80s porn stills; they seem somewhat quaint to my eye. Why is there any reason to believe that today's gonzo bukakke bear amateur porn won't be viewed as inherently less smutty by future generations?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2012


Might I reccomend a clever filmic entertainment based on Revuedeville: Mrs Henderson Presents, starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins? (With appearances by Will Young and Toby Jones!) Trailer here; nude tableaux number here.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If that's the case, I can't imagine what is going to replace it. (Doesn't something have to fill in the void for something else to be considered "quaint" -- the "anti-quaint", I guess.)

I mean, I literally CANNOT imagine it. And I can imagine a lot of fucked up shit.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


augmented reality, mind machine interfaces and biological feedback are going to make having sex with a human seem shockingly old fashioned.

See Stross' RULE 34, where the main character is a police officer who lurks in very realistic online simulated worlds to see if any actual crime is going on and not pretend simulated sex crime (including stuff we don't have words for yet).
posted by The Whelk at 11:45 AM on March 14, 2012


One Grecian Urn, twoooo grecian urns...
posted by PussKillian at 12:22 PM on March 14, 2012


codacorolla:LOL

so that's why I don't like 300. I'm not gay!
posted by victory_laser at 1:30 PM on March 14, 2012


Funny how yesterdays titillation has become todays art.


There are some paintings where I work that were DEFINITELY meant to, er, arouse. Usually the intent is concealed behind pious or mythological imagery, but often the poses of the models or some other factor give away that the image has a second purpose. There is, for instance, a painting (the name of the artist escapes me at present) of Judith having an extreme wardrobe malfunction, seemingly more alarmed at the exposure of her ample bosom than the fact that she's holding a severed human head. Oopsie!

posted by louche mustachio at 6:50 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


If that's the case, I can't imagine what is going to replace it. (Doesn't something have to fill in the void for something else to be considered "quaint" -- the "anti-quaint", I guess.)

I mean, I literally CANNOT imagine it. And I can imagine a lot of fucked up shit.


MCMikeNamara, I know; I am right there with you, and yet... I find myself looking back at the porn of the era where I first discovered that my urinary outlet had ANOTHER use, and thinking, "How quaint...ly raunchy."
posted by IAmBroom at 8:37 AM on March 15, 2012


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