Between Naked and Nude

650-Le reveil...
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Le reveil de Chrysis
Dir. and actors unknown. P: Pathé frères. Fr 1897/99
From the Pathé series ‘Scènes grivoises d’un caractère piquant’ (6ème Série)

“Dans une atmosphère de parfums d’Orient, Chrysis s’éveille. Une négresse lui prodigue respectueusement les soins du lever, pendant que Chry sis soulève langoureusement son corps encore alangui par le sommeil.

Chrysis awakes in an atmosphere of oriental perfumes, and as she rises languidly from her couch, a negress attends respectfully to her wants.”
Filmographie Pathé

“[The] ambivalence between lustful voyeurism and artistic contemplation was later theorized as an opposition between the words naked and nude. While other languages, like French, make no distinction (using the word ‘le nu’ for both translations), English does. Kenneth Clark has theorized this dissimilarity in the following polarization: On the one hand he links ‘nakedness’ with ‘artless’, obscene exhibition and illicit voyeurism. On the other, he identifies ‘nudity’ as an artistic category that deals with ideal beauty and deserves legitimate contemplation. The attraction of living pictures precisely rested on this oscillation between nakedness and nudity, on the one hand de-idealizing the paint that takes shape in the flesh, on the other hand tranfiguring the actors’ bodies into works of art. The fact is too often overlooked, but thanks to this nude alibi, tableaux vivants were the means by which, historically, the naked body got on stage. And the same story occured on screen: the naked came into view under the guise of the nude, shaped by pictorial codes. Motion pictures became the direct heir of living pictures. (…) In the Pathé Catalogue, the film [ref. to La naissance de Vénus, Pathé 1899] appears in a series called ‘scènes grivoises d’un caractère piquant’, literally meaning ‘saucy scenes with a hot quality’. In addition to this title, a warning advises exhibitors to ‘exclude children from the exhibition of these pictures’. The tone is set. (…) The exhibition of flesh is the main selling point. (…)
The catalog summaries make constant reference to art, literature, mythology, and famous iconic nude figures in a lyrical literary style, with sophisticated adjectives, elaborated grammar, and a touch of poetry quelling any suspicion of vulgarity. And several surviving films of this ‘not-for-children’-list prove that the reference was visually significant. La naissance de Vénus (Pathé, ca. 1899) is inspired by William Bouguereau‘s painted Venus, (…) and Le Reveil de Chrysis (Pathé, ca. 1899) has much in common with Ferdinand Roybet‘s ‘Odalisque’.”
Valentine Robert: Nudity in Early Cinema; or, the Pictorial Transgression. In: Marina Dahlquist, Doron Galili, Jan Olsson, Valentine Robert (ed.): Corporeality in Early Cinema: Viscera, Skin, and Physical Form. Indiana University Press 2018, p. 157-159

BOO183493

Ferdinand Roybet (1840-1920): Odalisque (La Sultane)

Le bain des dames de la cour
Dir. and actors unknown. P: Pathé. Fr 1904
Print: Filmoteca de Zaragoza

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