Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beautiful Slave Women

Sex sells! This platitude proves true especially in art history. Already a lot of Renaissance painters improved there incomes by painting gorgeous nudes or adding them to other sceneries.

In 19th century academic painting voluptuous nudes were so endemic that it was necessary to find good excuses for their omnipresence. So they were situated in mythological, biblical and not at least historical sceneries.

One of the most popular practices to place nudes in history paintings was slavery. Paining nudes on an antique slave market was not only a good excuse but also kind of politically correct. Superficially accusing the suppression and exploitation of the poor females the artists could paint gorgeous nudes and exploit them themselves by selling them in the art market.

The White Slave (1894) by the British painter Ernest Normand (1859-1923). Normand was kind of a specialist in mythological and historical nudes.

Roman Slave (1894) by the Brazilian painter Oscar Pereira da Silva (1867-1939). On the sign is written "VIRGO XXI ANNUS NATA" meaning "Virgin, 21 years old". That feigns authenticity, but it’s a poor invention. Beautiful slaves were never sold nude on the streets.

Slave Market in Rome (c. 1884) by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904). Gérôme did also a lot of paintings of this subject but preferably with an oriental setting which offered even more salacious opportunities.

In the long run nearly all these paintings are cheap exploitation already long before the word was used in that context. I know only one painting which offers another point of view on that subject: A Slave for Sale (c. 1897) by the Spanish painter Aranda, José Jiménez (1837-1903).

There is a young slave girl bowing her head in shame, clearly a victim. She’s not voluptuous like the slaves by Normand or Gérôme, she’s pregnant probably violated. Around here are the feet of lecherous men the possible buyers and above all the voyeurs. This circle can be completed with the contemplators of the painting.
Really a great piece of art!


  1. the last one has greek words in the sign!!!
    It writes "Rose"
    ... years old
    For sale ....
    the dots are because i can't read all the words in Greek
    Bye from Greece

  2. Thanks lampros lampinos.
    The name or label "Rose" makes the sign even more cynical.

  3. That fact that you thought the last image of the slave was pregnant shows how much the modern media has indoctrinated you to see women.

    She isn't pregnant hon. She's just not size 0.

  4. It's not important if she really is pregnant or if I am indoctrinated.
    She is a constructed image painted to transmit what the artist had in mind and what the onlookers in the 19th century (not me!) should perceive. And there is an enormous contrast to the other paintings. And that's what matters, I think.
    But anyway thanks for your concern.

  5. Lots of cool master / slave sex in the Ancient world, with none of the prudish religious and legal problems we encounter in our post Christian world. That's why these paintings were popular in periods of sexual repression. Any horny ancient with the price of a slave could have sex on tap. Now you need a huge bank account or a face and body like Brad Pitt.

  6. Pervs all imagine themselves slavemasters. More likely a slave bought by a dirty smelly fat old wrinkled man who beats you when he can't get it up despite your best efforts on his shriveled smegma-crusted limp rope. Closeup views of the crabs crawling in his ragged gray scrub pad. Reality of slavery not like in the movies where all the slaves are good looking shapely.