Culture Magazine

Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

By Kirsty Stonell Walker @boccabaciata
It poured with rain yesterday and a goodly part of the day was spent erecting a shed in the garden (yes, yes, I'm sure you can imagine the level of humor we used to combat the wind and rain).  Today is the first proper day of the Christmas holidays, and the shortest day to boot, and so Lily and I are having a sofa day while I finish knitting my father's shepherds for his knitted nativity set.  Best not to ask.On with the Muffvent pictures...

Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

Collette Gervex (1910) Henri Gervex

Here we have a charming young woman in a wintery lane, all wrapped up with furry hat, scarf and massive muff.  She is Collette Gervex, daughter of the artist Henri Gervex.  This is not the first time he had painted her...

Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

Collette's First Steps (1895)

Fifteen years previously, Gervex had painted his daughter taking her first steps (what a parent-y thing to do) and then, as she became a young woman, he painted her again with all the accessories of womanhood.  The significance of the picture is that it is a 'coming of age' portrait, much in the same way as people used to have photographic portraits done (and possibly still do).  I recently was given my mother's 21st birthday portrait and it seemed like a really moment in her life that we don't really mark in the same way anymore, or at least not quite so formally. In Collette Gervex's portrait, her father shows her as a poised and presentable young woman of whom he is obviously proud.

Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

Portrait of Madame Gervex (1893)

It wasn't just his daughter that Gervex painted with her fluffy muff, as here we have a picture of Mrs Gervex looking very splendid.  I love that cape with the white lining, very swish.  The red background contrasts with her black outfit and the whole effect is very striking, drawing your eye up to her face.  I have to admit Gervex is one of my favorite painters ever since I saw this painting at the Musee D'Orsay...

Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

Rolla (1878)

This is such a wonderful painting.  It was seen as utterly immoral and scandalous at the time of its (attempted) exhibition and was excluded by the Salon for being too rude.  Now, it wasn't the subject matter, a prostitute sleeping after a frolic with a client, nor the fact that she is very nude indeed.  Heaven knows she wasn't the only naked lady submitted that year.  No, it was the still life of her discarded clothes that got people all over-excited - the petticoat (goodness me!), the garter (lawks!) and the corset (swoon!) all piled up with the gentleman's hat on top with his walking stick poking through it all in a suggestive manner.  Feel free to go and have a breath of fresh air if this all become too much for you. In the end Gervex exhibited it in a gallery and the outrage in the press meant that loads of people paid to see it and be utterly disgusted by the subject matter.  I'm sure some people were so horrified that they had to see it a number of times just to make sure they were as horrified as possible...
Right, now I have got you all overstimulated with thoughts of corsets and loose morals, I should offer you a pressie to buy for your nearest and dearest, or yourself.  When I was writing We Are Villains All I had lots of images of foxes to inspire me, and one of them was this wonderful screen-printed fox who you can sew into a cushion...
Monday 21st December - Collette Gervex

Felix the Fox is the creation of Sarah Young, and you can buy him from her Etsy shop (here).  I love Etsy, you can find such unique and unusual things for presents, plus you are buying directly from the clever folk who make the items.  It really should be my new year resolution to buy all birthday and Christmas presents from Etsy if I am not making them myself because at least you know you are getting something made with love and care.
See you tomorrow...

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