Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Evolution to Good Grooming Makes Great Art

For centuries, women used to experience the intimate act of washing in ..well public places. Rich women almost never bathed alone. Some of the wealthier women featured in many of the artworks around mid 19 century. It’s worth noticing that although many paintings feature them, there are quite a lot of paintings with prostitutes and mistresses. The evolution of grooming from 15 to the end of 19 century is the theme of a though-provoking exhibition of the Musée Marmottan Monet, called “La Toilette and the Invention of Privacy” The exhibition consists of more than 100 different works (paintings and drawings) that reflect some of most intimate moments of the lives of these women. It is amazing how much time it took women to get real privacy. The exhibition and history these artworks represent is extremely interesting. It makes us question our perception of privacy and cleaning habits. Most of the works belong to French artists, but there are also other European countries represented at the museum such as Belgium.
Mr. Georges Vigarello, one of the curators of La Toilette exhibition said that the main goal was to trace and show the history of women’s toilette or how women groomed and prepared themselves in the period between the Renaissance to the beginning of the century. One of the front paintings from 1500 show a women taking immersing herself in a bath surrounded by at least 5 other people, including men. She is not shy at all in such an intimate moment. It’s worth noting that taking a bath or immersing oneself in water was extremely rare and the women mentioned above were most certainly preparing herself to her wedding ceremony. Apart from being very scarce in cities and houses up until the end of 17th century, it was also object of fear. It was though that immersing your body in water would cause fragility and even make you more vulnerable to plague and venoms. Hygienic effect were probably known, but disregarded. The paintings also reveal some other interesting scenes: the toilette itself. How appearance and grooming of women grew more and more important. It is amazing how the world of her boudoir (bedroom) and her grooming were perceived. The women frequently get dressed, applied make up and groomed themselves in front of others. In eighteen century this practice changes and becomes more private, as water becomes more common. People adopted new washing and grooming habits. Even though servants were still present while their masters washed and cleaned themselves, all other outside gazes were forbidden.
As time passed and the water become more and more common, new washing practices replaced the old ones and ultimately bathing and grooming become private. The paintings from that period show that there were new grooming tools and new washing habits. Everything changed: attitude, behavior, and tools. And then in nineteenth century water reached all floors and ‘cabinets de toilette’ were designed. The captured scenes of the toilette and bath now show more dynamic, use of sponges, rubbing and flow of water over the body.
The whole exhibition focus on capturing the cleaning rituals and traces the complete closing of the once open private space

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