The Princess’ Bath

An associate who is something of an expert on young girls in film graciously sold some of his hard-to-find titles and gave me some tips on films to review. One of the most charming was a silent film produced in 1917 called Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. The play was put on by The Fox Kiddies. I figured it was a group of contract child players and sought more information online. But I could find no mention of them nor the names of other films they acted in. Older films tend to resemble a theatrical play and when children put on a school play, they naturally have to play adult roles. In this case, all the major roles are performed by the children surrounded by a supporting cast of adults.

Even though the title character is Aladdin (Francis Carpenter), it feels like events are motivated and orchestrated by the Princess (Virginia Lee Corbin) who is not given a name. Her father, the Sultan, is willing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who can present an impressive enough gift. The Sultan’s Magician, the wily al-Talib (Violet Radcliffe) desires her and tries to impress her with some baubles. Insulted, she stomps out protesting that she does not want a husband.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (1)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (1)

She is consoled many times in the film by her loyal handmaid, Yasmini (Gertie Messinger).

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (2)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (2)

One day, the Princess leaves the palace to visit the city marketplace. There, she and Aladdin catch each other’s eye. As a pretense for meeting him, she deliberately drops one of her shoes on the street. Aladdin picks it up and approaches her carriage. Beaming at each other, she tells him he may put it back on her foot. They continue to make eyes at each other as he fumbles around with the shoe.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (3)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (3)

While waiting for her mistress, Yasmini entertains the other slaves with a little dance.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (4)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (4)

The Princess is smitten and regales Yasmini with descriptions of this wonderful lad.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (5)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (5)

Al-Talib (left) observes the scene in the marketplace and along with his henchman Omar (Bud Messinger), schemes to manipulate Aladdin so he can woo the Princess himself.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (6)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (6)

Aladdin retrieves the Magic Lamp in a special cave and, in a predictable act of betrayal, is sealed inside. He discovers the lamp’s magical properties, escapes and requests a prize worthy of a princess to present to the Sultan. There is a moment of ecstatic bliss before al-Talib creates a clever deception to get the lamp for himself. When he does so, he turns Aladdin back into a pauper. No longer able to get access to the palace in his peasant clothing, Aladdin tries to sneak in to warn the Princess what has happened. In the mean time, there is a delightful bath scene where the Princess and Yasmini talk about the couple’s happy future together.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (7)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (7)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (8)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (8)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (9)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (9)

Aladdin and the Princess conspire to steal the lamp back and fix everything. They are ultimately successful and we cut to the final scene where there is celebration in the streets and a closeup of the happy couple.

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (10)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (10)

William Fox - Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (11)

William Fox – Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1917) (11)

One of the interesting conventions of this film was the use of color changes to indicate the venue. Palace scenes were processed in purple, outdoor scenes in a golden sepia and dream/fantasy scenes in cyan. I found a copy of the film on YouTube for anyone who wants to check out this amusing melodrama.

Control Freak: François Gillet

I was delighted to learn that François Gillet has established his own website and I have updated most of these images for better fidelity.  There are also a lot of images I had not seen before—and may have never been published—on his site under the heading of “Childhood”.  He offers some interesting background on his experiences working with children and his concerns about being type-cast.  Take a look.

I know this does not sound like a flattering title for an artist, but to tell you the truth, this is one of my favorite photographers of all time. I bought one of the artist’s early books—L’album de François Gillet published by Zoom-Paris/Landmark Book Co. (1981)—because I was told it contained some of the most charming images of children. Indeed it did, but the first half contained a number of his still-lifes and I was mesmerized. When I really looked at the images, I recognized the astonishing level of control he must have had over the scene. I just loved the simple sublimeness of a torn loaf of bread, a row of shiny fish or a carefully arranged cornucopia. Viewers should be aware that these effects come from his complete control of the frame and are never retouched. Many younger viewers today initially assume he accomplishes this with some clever use of Photoshop. The first image is a kind of ode to the mysteries of salt and the idea of salt as an artistic medium in its own right.

François Gillet - (Untitled) (1970s)

François Gillet – (Untitled) (1970s)

François Gillet was born in 1949 in France and is now based in Stockholm. His aspiration as a child was to paint, but by his twenties, the compelling way photographs serve as a mirror to nature drew him in. He studied photography at the Arts University College at Bournemouth and graduated in 1971. His work has been published in international magazines and companies from all over the world have commissioned his work for advertising campaigns: Fuji (Japan), Silk-cut (UK), Korean airlines, Brown Brothers Wineries (Australia), Bonne Maman (France) and Orrefors (Sweden). He received a number of awards for his distinctive work from 1979 to 1998 and has exhibited his work in numerous venues since 1984.

When it comes to control, conventional wisdom has it that the challenges to be avoided are children, animals and water. So it is even more remarkable when Gillet became a doting father—of a daughter, Melinda—he would be captivated by her charm and include her in his compositions. Naturally, there are family photos, but this photo is the first time she was a deliberate part of one of his artistic scenes. Instead of proper titles, most accompanying texts are more like descriptions.

When she got older, he shot this more sophisticated version of dressup. This image appeared on the cover of ZOOM (Issue 87, March 1981).

François Gillet – Girl in Mummy’s shoes (1974)

François Gillet – Girl in Mummy’s shoes (1974)

François Gillet – Girl with black stocking (1981)

François Gillet – Girl with black stocking (1981)

Perhaps the most joyous images of his little girl are from this photo shoot. The more saturated image appears on the cover of ZOOM (Issue 97, April 1982). The only full image I had was this one which was lit differently and so is not nearly as color-saturated.

François Gillet - Girl hanging upside-down (1982)

François Gillet – Girl hanging upside-down (1982)

François Gillet - Girl hanging upside-down (1982) (detail)

François Gillet – Girl hanging upside-down (1982) (detail)

Gillet is clearly well-versed in formal art and mythic motifs like The Four Seasons.

François Gillet – Lisa: 4 seasons (1978)

François Gillet – Lisa: 4 seasons (1978)

And he is also knowledgeable about the history of more commercial imagery—whether it be an idyllic image of the joys of car ownership, shooting an ad in the style of Pear’s Soap or observing Charles Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll) convention of dressing up children in an exotic tableau vivant. This image—part of an ad campaign for Barnängen, a Swedish cosmetics company—appeared on the cover of ZOOM (Issue 61, April 1979) along with an piece featuring the artist.

François Gillet – The flying carpet (1977)

François Gillet – The flying carpet (1977)

He also enlisted the participation of a number of neighborhood children for a series of images—with the assistance of Kristina Lannmark—which was published in Le Petit Théatre (1982). There was a European version published by Publicness and a Japanese version produced in a smaller format. The accompanying texts were in French and Japanese.  Since the playfulness of the original poetry can be lost in translation, I offer both the original French followed by an English translation.

J’ai une idée!
Si on jouait avec elle à la fête foraine?
On va lui faire les montagnes russes!
— Oh oui! Le tobogan et la grande roue!
— Les radios cars et la traine fantôme!
— Ah dites-donc, devinez ce que je vois?
— Tais-toi,
ne montre pas du doigt!

 

I’ve got an idea!

How about playing with her at the amusement park?
We can get her to go on the roller coaster!
Oh yes! The slide and the ferris wheel!
The remote-controlled cars and the funhouse!
Hey there, guess what I can see?
Shut-up,
don’t point!

François Gillet – (Untitled from Le Petit Théatre) (1980) (1)

François Gillet – (Untitled from Le Petit Théatre) (1980) (1)

Pas question de mettre un pantalon
quand on trouve de si beaux cotillons.
Les Lapons ont des caleçons longs.
Les Indiens ont trois fois rien.
Nous, nous montrons nos jupons,
tout en dentelle,
comme la tour Eiffel,
en dentelle
d’Alençon.

 

There’s no way I’ll put on pants
when I’ve got such pretty petticoats.
The Lapplanders have longjohns.
The Indians have absolutely nothing.
But us, we show our petticoats,
made completely of lace,
like an Eiffel tour,
made of lace from Alençon.

François Gillet – (Untitled from Le Petit Théatre) (1980) (2)

François Gillet – (Untitled from Le Petit Théatre) (1980) (2)

It is natural to ask in what way Gillet’s vision may have been compromised by doing commercial work. In this sense, he is perhaps one of the most fortunate artists. His way of taking what most people would call mundane and helping the viewer see its unnoticed beauty and character is exactly how he approaches commercial projects. Indeed, his point seems to be that nothing in the world is truly banal to an alert eye. And as marketers have come to recognize, he was perhaps ahead of his time in using imagery, not to tell us about a product, but to tell us how to feel about it.

“…so successfully has he blurred any notional fine line between the two categories. For some decades now he has been surreptitiously insinuating the same sublime purity of vision that he brings to his personal work into the usually prosaic commercial world of advertising.” -Ian Talbot (2010)

His methodology is to build a set in three dimensions, careful to pay attention to every detail of the subjects, the background and the organization of empty space. Because of his obsession with rendering detail, he chose the 8×10 large-format camera. He himself has used the word “control” to describe the process, “in an attempt to be in control of every square inch in the frame”. Only when he believes he has reached the highest level of beauteous perfection does he shoot the scene.

“The definition of illusion as something untrue, as the opposite to reality has always repelled me for how can one live without illusions?…For the last few decades I have explored both the real and fantasy worlds; even with my commissioned work…”

“There is a beauty in making the picture exist in reality before recording it. Somehow it becomes the proof of one’s own existence.”

Despite his seemingly perfectionist style, Gillet continues to evolve—another sign of a great artist. Because of his habit of arranging objects in a frame, he already had a knack for noticing and collecting things. His latest project amps up this visual impact in two major ways. He traveled to Australia to take advantage of its other-worldly landscapes and he no longer offers the viewer just a single shot, but arranges them in a series to form a collage and introducing a higher order of composition. You can see some examples of this on a video produced by Henrik Thomé.

Francois Gillet (official website)

Gillet put together a flipbook of a grown-up Melinda which can be seen here.  I am told she is now an oriental dancer.

Flowerbuds of the Desert: Girls and Orientalism, Pt. 2

Continuing with our assortment of Orientalist works . . .

Eva Roos – Young Girl

Wikipedia: Eva Roos

Frederick Goodall – An Egyptian Flower Girl

Frederick Goodall – The Song of the Nubian Slave

The Goodall Family of Artists: Frederick Goodall, R.A. (official site)

Wikipedia: Frederick Goodall

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre – Orientale à la tortue, aux bains

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre – The Approach of the Master

Gustave Achille Guillaumet – Intérieur à Bou-Saâda – scène orientale

Gustave Achille Guillaumet – Deux enfants arabes assis

Wikipedia: Gustave Achille Guillaumet

Isidore Pils – Kabyles

Wikipedia: Isidore Pils

I really like this next painting. Yes, young children are the same everywhere.

John Bagnold Burgess – The Meeting of East and West

Wikipedia: John Bagnold Burgess

John Singer Sargent – Nude Egyptian Girl (1891)

Tons of online resources for Sargent . . .

John Singer Sargent: The Complete Works

JSS Virtual Gallery

Wikipedia: John Singer Sargent

Edwin Lord Weeks – Moorish Girl Lying on a Couch, Rabat, Morocco

Antonio Fabrés y Costa – Young Oriental Girls

Wikipedia: Antonio Fabrés

Paul Alexandre Alfred Leroy – Idle Moments

Paul Alexandre Alfred Leroy – Portrait of a Young Girl

Paul Elie Dubois – Jeune Morocaine à Figuig 

Paul Elie Dubois – Pastorale au Hoggar

Paul Elie Dubois – The Family of Tinguelouz from Hoggar

Rudolf Ernst (attributed) – An Eastern Bazaar

Wikipedia: Rodolf Ernst

Flowerbuds of the Desert: Girls and Orientalism, Pt. 1

Largely a byproduct of the 19th century West’s fascination with Eastern cultures, particularly those of the Middle East, the Orientalist trend in art was widespread in British and European art.  The bright colors and exotic locales (not to mention the more overt eroticism that could be portrayed when dealing with foreign subjects, since they were considered less civilized anyway) attracted artists like a magnet.  One especially tempting draw for these painters were harem scenes, for obvious reasons, and it should be no surprise to anyone that occasionally the subjects were young adolescent girls.  While it is true that there is often an implicit, if not explicit, racism in the attitudes of these Western artists and their portrayals of the Middle East, it is also fair to say that there was likewise a deep-seated admiration, and perhaps even a kind of respect, for a culture which to many Westerners must’ve evoked the scenes and peoples of the Bible, including the harem, which is a tradition that stretches into the ancient histories of the Middle East, Southeast Asia and even in parts of South America.

It is important to note that the Western conception of the harem as a kind of lush prison full of the sultan’s or king’s hundreds of sex slaves, aside from being largely an exaggerated myth of the xenophobic Occidental world, is also a rather simplistic notion of what the harem was.  Essentially the harem was the domain of the women, children and concubines of a Middle Eastern royal’s family, forbidden to all males save for eunuchs and the king, sultan or other high-ranking royalty or leaders, which would include his wives, mother, daughters, and even sons until they came of age.  The harem could be a kind of paradise, a feminine oasis, and other than the slaves and servants, women had a good deal of power here that they would not have outside the harem’s walls.

Like Symbolism, Orientalism was less an artistic movement in itself than a loose confederation of art addressing a common theme.  Ergo, there are many different artists with a wide range of styles that fit into the Orientalist tradition.

Carl Timoleon von Neff – Harem Beauty (1859)

Alois Hans Schramm – Bedouin with Young Girl

Alois Hans Schramm – Counting the Bounty

Armand Point – An Arab Weaver

Armand Point – An Arab Weaver (detail)

Henry d’Estienne – An Arab Girl Carrying Bread

Henry d’Estienne – Jeune orientale aux bijoux

Jean Launois – Juive d’El Oued et son enfant

Marc Alfred Chataud – Fillettes algériennes

Paul Désiré Trouillebert – Harem Servant Girl (1874)

Wikipedia: Paul Trouillebert

Balinese Dancers and Other Native Beauties: Romualdo Locatelli

I’ve been looking at a lot of Orientalist art lately, which is how I discovered the work of Romualdo Locatelli.  Although most Orientalist art dealt with the Near/Middle East, Southeast Asia also received a bit of attention.  Locatelli, for example, did much to bring the islands of Bali and the Philippines to the public’s attention, focusing particularly on girls and young women, especially the dancers of Bali, with their beautiful, intricate costumes.  Locatelli came to Orientalism later than most, with much of his seminal work being produced from the 1920s to the 1940s.  In his native Italy Locatelli’s work was so popular that some of it was even collected by the Pope and Benito Mussolini.

In 1942, at the height of WWII, Locatelli, aged 37, disappeared without a trace while hunting somewhere near Manila in the Philippines, though not before getting to hobnob with General Douglas MacArthur.  The story of events leading up to this disappearance are quite fascinating; you can read about them here.  Anyway, here is a nice sampling of his lovely Impressionist paintings.

I think this first one has to be my favorite. I love the oblong framing technique.

Romualdo Locatelli – La lettura (1926)

Romualdo Locatelli – La mascherina (1927)

Romualdo Locatelli – La Balinese (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Legong Dancer (1939)

[Editor’s update, 2016/06/04: there is a larger image of Legong Dancer on Huffington Post.]

Romualdo Locatelli – Nude (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Tigah (1939)

Romualdo Locatelli – Portrait of a Young Girl

Romualdo Locatelli – Young Balinese Girl with Hibiscus

Romualdo Locatelli – More Than a Handful

Romualdo Locatelli – Sardine Girls

Romualdo Locatelli – (Title Unknown) (1)

Romualdo Locatelli - (Title Unknown) (2)

Romualdo Locatelli – (Title Unknown) (2)

Connie Gilchrist: A Little Victorian Superstar

Before the age of broadcast media a child’s best hope of becoming famous was either through acting or modeling, sometimes both.  One such star was Connie Gilchrist, who made her name by first modelling for Pre-Raphaelite painter supreme Lord Frederic Leighton at the tender age of 6 (the same age another English Connie made her big splash in more recent times).  Her first major assignment was for Leighton’s “Little Fatima”:

frederic-lord-leighton-little-fatima-1875

Frederic Lord Leighton – Little Fatima (1875)

Gilchrist posed again for Leighton for the line of little girls at the front of the procession in “The Daphnephoria”. All of the little girls were modeled after her.

Frederic Lord Leighton - The Daphnephoria (1876)

Frederic Lord Leighton – The Daphnephoria (1876)

Frederic Lord Leighton - The Daphnephoria (detail) (1876)

Frederic Lord Leighton – The Daphnephoria (detail) (1876)

And again for the child in “The Music Lesson”:

Frederic Lord Leighton - The Music Lesson (1877)

Frederic Lord Leighton – The Music Lesson (1877)

Frederic Lord Leighton - The Music Lesson (detail) (1877)

Frederic Lord Leighton – The Music Lesson (detail) (1877)

Around this time she began her career as an actress at the Gaiety Theatre, and Leighton would soon move on to other models.  Not long after, she caught the attention of Lewis Carroll, an avid theater-goer, in one of her roles.  Carroll described her in January 1877 as “one of the most beautiful children, in face and figure, that I have ever seen” and wished to capture her on camera.  As far as I know he never did.  He did, however, take her on a date of sorts to the Royal Academy, where she was able to observe the painting of herself in “The Music Lesson”—something, according to Carroll, she got quite a kick out of.  However, Carroll’s fascination with this particular child friend seems to have waned quickly, for only a year later he said of her: “She is losing her beauty, and can’t act,” a comment that was in my opinion undeserved, at least in terms of her beauty; I can’t vouch for her acting.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler had attended some of shows at the Gaiety Theatre and captured the child in one of her most notable and beloved performances, the so-called skipping rope dance, which Carroll did like despite his scathing critique of her otherwise.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler - Harmony in Yellow and Gold - Gold Girl - Connie Gilchrist (1877)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler – Harmony in Yellow and Gold – Gold Girl – Connie Gilchrist (1877)

Whistler painted her again in a more formal context a couple years later.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler - The Blue Girl - Portrait of Connie Gilchrist (1879)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler – The Blue Girl – Portrait of Connie Gilchrist (1879)

Several theatrical photographs of Gilchrist were made over the span of her acting career.

Artist Unknown - Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (1)

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (1)

Artist Unknown - Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (2)

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (2)

Artist Unknown - Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (3)

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (3)

CIS:S.135:355-2007

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (4)

CIS:S.135:351-2007

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (5)

Artist Unknown - Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (5)

Artist Unknown – Guy Little Theatrical Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (6)

Wikipedia: Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton

Wikipedia: James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Google Books: Dictionary of Artist’s Models: Connie Gilchrist