Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Venus in Black Stockings 13: Maud Easton by Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910)

Maud Easton, 20th August 1891 by Edward Linley Sambourne

Further to our previous post on the Pettigrew sisters, we thought we would post a few more photographs by the Punch illustrator and cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne.  This shot of a girl in just stockings and shoes is particularly effective.

Although many of Sambourne's photographs were done as studies for his illustrations (such as this one of Easton above) he also developed an interest in nude photography for its own sake.

The model in all of these pictures is one Maud Easton.  Sambourne noted down short, often dismissive, descriptions of his models' appearance and characteristics and observed that Easton was a "silly girl".  She was a model of Leslie Ward, the portraitist, best known for his caricatures of prominent people of the day done for Vanity Fair magazine under the pseudonym of Spy.

Edwin Austin Abbey by Leslie Ward ("Spy") (1898)

These pictures were all taken at the home of his friend, the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey, at 54 Bedford Gardens, about half a mile north of Sambourne's house.  Abbey was famous enough to have his picture painted by Ward in his Spy guise.

Sambourne, perhaps of necessity for someone whose collection of picture references and photographs numbered over 30,000 items, was a great cataloguer and diarist so we know that these two reclining nudes are from his very first session with her, shot in the morning of Saturday 1st August 1891.  It must have been a quite rapid session as he left home at 10.00 am for Abbey's studio at Bedford Gardens and was back by midday.  He was in a rush as he had to get to Waterloo Station to go down to Mudeford, near Christchurch in Dorset for some sailing with friends for a few days. Coincidentally, Triple P's family had a friend who lived in Christchurch and we often sailed from Mudeford when we were young.

Easton lived at 18 Auriol Road, West Kensington about half a mile from Sambourne's home at at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington.  Sambourne's house can be visited and is still pretty much as it was when he lived there; a remarkable time capsule of late Victorian times and often called the best preserved Victorian house in the world.  He photographed Easton again the Saturday after her first shoot.  Here she is flashing a glimpse of her thigh and looking louche with a glass of Champagne. 

It has been suggested that Easton, who was nineteen when she first modelled for Sambourne in 1891, may have had some sort of sexual relationship with Sambourne (and possibly a friend of his, Sir Kenneth Mackenzie) as his pictures of her were notably more sexually charged than those of his other models.

Sambourne liked to keep track of his female models and in 1901 Sir Kenneth Mackenzie told him that Easton had just got married.

 These pictures were taken in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 30th 1891.  Sambourne noted that the sitting had been hindered by workmen on the roof of Abbey's house. He describes this in his diary as a "folly" dress but it is also noted as a pulcinella costume and, perhaps in reference to his employers at Punch magazine, she clutches a Mr Punch figure.

Here, she is displaying her trim thighs (compared with the Pettigrew sisters, for example).   

In this final photograph Easton is wearing a mask but displaying a lot more of herself.  There cannot be any justification as regards source material for a drawing for publication for this pose, so either she or Sambourne were having some saucy fun.

Edward Linley Sambourne

Although Sambourne did shoot a few nudes at his home studio (which necessitated taking most of his drawing room furniture out into the garden) when his wife and children were visiting family in the country, he shot most of his nudes, as was the case for all of these, at 54 Bedford Gardens.  When he died his wife, Marion, was shocked to discover all these nude photographs but fortunately for posterity she did not destroy them and so we can still enjoy the silly but fetching Maud Easton nearly 125 years later.


  1. In the nude chair photo, she reminds me of a mythological Pan.

    1. I'm fascinated by her ornate, patterned stockings! Something for my story, I think!