07/10/2011 § 3 Comments
This classic Yves Saint Laurent campaign that echoes several iconic paintings, photographed by Mario Sorrenti in 1999, is a favorite of mine. Yes, Christian Louboutin also had a more recent campaign along this same theme, but those photographs were merely exacting reproductions of the originals, with a stiletto thrown into the mix. Pretty to look at, but not much more. Appropriately coming from the House of Le Smoking, the YSL images are much more interesting for their deft play with the concepts of gender and gender roles. My absolute favorite image is this first one above, based on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (one of my first stops whenever visiting the Musée d’Orsay in Paris). I’ve always wondered why the ladies were naked whilst the men were so very buttoned up. What kind of luncheon is that? Extra points for Kate Moss in a suit, of course…
Even more interesting is the image based on Fragonard’s Le Verrou, where a image of sex, violence and male domination is flipped on its head. Again, with Kate Moss at the helm, it is she who is clutching a lithe youth who is shown naked — he is given no courtesy of a layered gown like the woman in the Fragonard painting — and overwhelmed. It is Kate who is reaching up to secure the bolt on the door. It is a woman who overpowers here, a woman who who dominates. (Yes, we do have to cast aside the crucial fact that he very well could reach the bolt if he wanted to, unlike the woman in the Fragonard painting.)
Do you feel the instinct — as I do — to cast the scene differently when looking at Kate? Do you interpret her furrowed brow as concern? That she is she opening the door and not closing it? That something else is happening? Something tender?
Is this merely because the antagonist is a woman…?
Look again. Compare the two. How different are they, truly?
And that is why I will always, always, always prefer this campaign over a few pictures of pretty models, classically styled, with a few shoes placed at strategic intervals.
But that’s just me.