Photograph young female model posing wearing a striped swimsuit by an anonymous photographer, 23.5 x 17.5 cm © Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne
In this sepia photograph, we see a young female model posing for a portrait, taken in what appears to be photography studio. Wearing a striped swimsuit, most likely a two-pieced suit as was common at the time, she sits on a small wooden bench. Her tightly fitted tank-top fits snugly over a pair of shorts that reach her mid-thigh, revealing her deliciously voluptuous figure. At the time, colours of swimwear were often vibrant – red, blue or green – with contrasting stripes. As the photograph is in the tonality of sepia, a reddish-brown colour, we are left to imagine the colours of the model’s swimsuit. With her legs crossed, she poses with both hands placed at her waist. Wearing a relatively large brimmed hat with a pin, she tilts her head slightly and smiles for the camera. Her smile is discreet and mischievous. Her dark black hair is styled in pigtails with ribbons. The backdrop for the photograph is wallpaper with a repetitive printed floral motif.
Although the photographer has centred his subject in the photograph, it is notable that the bench the model is perched upon is centred while the girl is slightly off-centre. The photographer makes sure to include the model’s hat in its entirety, however her legs are not shown in full. The image stops just above her ankles. Since 1913, hemlines in fashion were raised and women began to show a little ankle.
This photograph was purchased by the Musée de l’Elysée. When aquired, both the date of the photograph and name of the photographer were unknown. This work is part of the Musée de l’Elysée’s collection of 4’948 anonymous photographs which are often undated and offer no information about the photographer or the circumstances behind their creation, sometimes without names of places or people.
Through careful observation, the museum’s curators have dated this photograph around 1920. Swimming for recreation came into vogue in the 1920’s. The fashion of the bathing-suit the model is wearing is representative of this time and has therefore aided in the dating process.
This photograph is a gelatin silver print that measures 23.5 by 17.5 centimetres. The gelatine silver process, introduced by Richard Leach Maddox in 1871, produces a photograph by applying a suspension of silver salts in gelatine on a support such as glass, flexible plastic or film, baryta paper, or resin-coated paper. Gelatin silver printing was the prevailing photographic process from the 1880’s until the 1960’s when colour photography became dominant.
In front of you is a tactile representation which is on a sheet measured 21,8 by 27,7 cm. The image itself is contained in a large square so as you begin to orient yourself to the image, please feel the large square outline. To begin viewing the picture, locate the circle in the lower right hand of the image. It feels like a circular puffed area.
As you enter the image directly to the left of the orientation mark, you will see a series of vertical lines above which is a series of horizontal lines that take up the lower right portion and lower left portion of the page signifying the bench on which the anonymous female subject matter is seated. The bench's legs with their vertical lines and the bench itself represented by the horizontal lines extend to the left and right of the lower part of the image.
Directly in the center of the page you will find the subject matter of this photograph, a seated woman with her hands on her hips dressed in what appears to be a black and white stripped bathing suit and sun hat. Her body is outlined in a thick line with her bathing suit's horizontal lines represented by dashed lines inside the figure's outline. Her hat at the center top of the image is also outlined in a thick line with small circles inside. Directly below her hat is her curled thick locks of hair represented by small curved lines with her eyes staring straight out to the viewer.
Interestingly enough, she is not outside but inside as there is a decorative wall paper behind the seated woman as though seated for a portrait. If you return to the initial orientation point in the lower right side of the picture, you will see directly to the right of the figure there are a series of markings along the entire right side of the page representing the background wall paper. There are curved lines with floral motifs and leaves that serve as the background, but which are not so evident to the left of the figure.