Sexual Ambiguity of Meaning | Carter Art

Jacques Cancaret (French, 1876-1941) “Nu aux Colliers (Nude with a Necklace)” No biographical information available.

A stretched-out nude figure cuts diagonally through the picture dominating the rectangular composition. both arms tucked casually supporting he head as she languidly relaxes on a mass of white bedding, embroidered pillows and satin material, both with floral motives and decoration. A crocheted floral fabric covers her sex, a gesture of modesty which tantalises and teases. Beside her is a plain cream ceramic dish or planter with a splendid display of red purplish flowers besides which rests a collection stone looking beads, a bracelet and a necklace, all supported on a dark wood side-table. The mass of white bedding and white flesh beautifully balances the power of the gorgeous colours.

She has a modern simple hairstyle, rouge red lips and a simple necklace or chocker of green semi-precious stones. Her skin is fashionable floorless pale white. She looks comfortable, composed and at ease with her nudity. She is looking toward the flowers not engaging with an unseen person. Is she alone in her solitude or is she on display for a viewer? We have an ambiguity, an uncertain meaning or state for her nudity.

A reclining nude with a choker is often a sign of a prostitute but her opulent surroundings would suggest an elevated status of a courtesan with more protection, greatly improved working conditions with a certain amount of control and autonomy but is this what we are seeing? There is not enough information to be certain. Is this a deliberate ambiguity on behalf of the artist or an artist cautious of courting too much controversy?

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