April 12, 2023 – Dr. Martha Lucy

Deputy Director for Research, Interpretation and Education
Barnes Foundation
“Men Watching Women Watching Themselves: The Curious Erotics of the Nineteenth-Century Toilette”

Toilette scenes showing women primping before a mirror—applying makeup, lacing up corsets, brushing out hair—were everywhere in late nineteenth-century Paris. This talk will explore the widespread practice, detailed in French novels as well as in art and visual culture, of men paying for the privilege of watching a woman perform these intimate rituals. Why did the fashioning of one’s self-image hold so much erotic potential in the nineteenth-century imagination? How might we deconstruct the complex network of gazes at work in these images?

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