Original photography of a pioneer nude female performer, ca. 1910
Otto SKOWRANEK (Photo), Olga DESMOND (Model): [GEBET] (Prayer). Original silver bromide photography. [Berlin: Neue Photographische Gesellschaft, ca. 1909].
Otto SKOWRANEK (Photo), Olga DESMOND (Model): [GEBET] (Prayer). Original silver bromide photography. 2nd of a map with 11 vintage prints titled: Lebende Marmor-Bildwerke [Living Marble-Sculptures]. Dargestellt an den Schönheit-Abenden in Berlin von Olga Desmond und Adolf Salge. [Performed at the Evenings of Beauty in Berlin by O. D. and A. S.]. S.l., a. et t. [Berlin: Neue Photographische Gesellschaft, ca. 1909].
2nd of a set of 11 silver bromide photographies showing a consecutive series of nude scenes with German dancer and actress Olga Desmond (i.e. Olga Sellin, 1890-1964) in focus.
Contents: Desmond was one of the first female performers who promoted motion nudity on stage as a means of aesthetic expression, and was therefore heavily oppressed in conservative Prussia, where public performances only of rigid bodies, e.g. as imitation of famous ancient classical sculptures, were morally accepted. Starting in 1908 she and her male partner, the athlete Adolf Salge, performed scenographed series of »living pictures«, often complemented by dance movements and supported by music. These so-called »Evenings of Beauty« (Schönheits-Abende) took place in the Berlin Neues Schauspielhaus, as well as in other German cities like Leipzig and Breslau and even in St. Petersburg. Of great popularity, well covered by the media and the cultural industry (even postcards were produced) as well as documented by this series of vintage prints for sale, those events were nevertheless prohibited severals times, because Desmond and her partner usually posed and moved nude, wearing only body-paint. But her reputation as a cultural (and also early feminist) trouble-maker was also a good business opportunity. Desmond even sold cosmetic products carrying her name, thus being a predecessor of Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes and the like.
Known sets of the complete series usually contain 11 photographies, whereof the 1st is a dressed-up portrait of the actress and the other 10 show »living pictures«, here the 1st of this nude series. Sometimes the prints were tipped on the photographer’s (Hofphotograph Skowranek) printed grey boards that also incorporate captions like „Adoration“, „Venus Anadyomene“ or „Flirt“. Other sets only contain the plain silver bromide prints not tipped-on, like the present titled „Prayer“. Originally also a sheet with 4 ornamented pages of introducing text by Max Thielert attachment was attached, the whole set was published enclosed in a map with cloth spine, marbled boards on cream stock, green decorative title printing on front cover and 3 flaps.
With blind-stamp by the „Neue Photographische Gesellschaft“.
Condition: Print with silver margins, otherwise fine.
Rarity: OCLC and KVK show only one complete set in institutional holdings worldwide, at the Salzburg University Library.
References: Olga Desmond: Rhythmographik. Lpz.: 1919; Brygida M. Ochaim et al.: Varieté-Tänzerinnen um 1900. Katalog zur Ausstellung des Dt. Theatermuseums München: FfM.: 1998; Jörn E. Runge: Olga Desmond. Preußens nackte Venus. Friedland: 2009.