Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Mary Roesler, not really reading

In the rather odd image below, from the first decade of the twentieth century, a very photogenic Mary Roesler is posing with a book. It would obviously be a misrepresentation to say that this is a photograph of "Ms Roesler reading"—unless she had the rather extraordinary ability to read using her right ear. Or out of the corner of her eye, I guess.

The above photo is from a series of photographic postcards of our model tightly wrapped in gauze holding a flower, or rather more loosely draped in gauze holding a bunch of flowers, lying on her belly, or her back (ditto), sitting on a couch looking at herself in a hand mirror, playing a Pandura (classical lute-like instrument), awkwardly posing with a classical urn, standing while playing an aulos (twin pipes), facing left or right (ditto), sniffing a glass of wine. I.e., holding herself in a variety of poses, all of which are designed to show of her trim figure and a little bit of skin, mostly that on her lovely shoulders.

Although the postcard is, in many ways, quite typical, in attempting to show off an attractive model to advantage, using a book merely as a prop. It is somewhat unusual, in that, this is not plausibly a "reading pose." And, for that reason, it is rather more revealing than Ms Roesler's attire.

In this photo, it is obvious that the book in her right hand is a prop. We are not expected to imagine that Ms Roesler has been interrupted while reading, sprawled on her side on a cloth-covered lump, with one arm held high in the air, holding a book with the same refined delicacy as we'd expect her to hold a tea-cup, with pinky extended.

I explored this subject in some depth quite some time ago now (here), explaining that I had been collecting vintage images of women reading since about 2007, and that I would start to regularly post these images on my blog with comments, or without.

I have not, however, actually posted many of the two-hundred or so images I have been collecting, partly because my scanner became unusable when I upgraded my computer and partly because the image host I was using deleted all my images. Today's post is an attempt to re-start this project and to introduce the images that (I hope) will become a regular feature, now that I have access to a scanner once again.

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