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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tolstoy Venus 1: Princess Elena "Hélène" Vasilyevna Kuragina

Hélène (Tuppence Middleton) in bed with her brother and bonked on the table

Agent Triple P is enjoying the new BBC War & Peace and has just watched the second (of six) episodes.  It is certainly spectacular, with astonishing interiors and exteriors filmed in St Petersburg and (mainly) Lithuania.  In compressing the story down to six hours they are rattling it along compared with the BBC's previous effort in 1972, which ran to around 17 hours.  Triple P watched the 1972 version which had a wonderful cast, including a career launching role for Anthony Hopkins.  The 1972 version was very studio bound, however, except for the battle scenes which were shot in Yugoslavia.  Interestingly, the 1972 version had three times as many extras as the new version; 1,500 as against 500.  

Middleton 2016

This is not our concern today.  Instead, we focus on the actresses who have played the character of Hélène Vasilyevna Kuragina; very much the bad girl of the piece.  There have been a number of versions of War & Peace over the years so we will look at the last five.  The new BBC version has 28 year old Tuppence (!) Middleton as Hélène  (she also features in Dickensian, also playing at present) and War and Peace series creator Andrew Davies says the character is the "naughtiest character on TV".  Middleton is an attractive woman but compared with her screen forbears she is lacking in a couple of areas, as we will see.  In the "sexed-up" new BBC version she had been shown in bed with her character's brother and has had a not very naughty sex scene where viewers were more concerned about the fate of the china on the table, it seems.  Despite the Daily Mail insisting the incest story line has been made up for the adaption it is, in fact, strongly hinted at in Tolstoy's novel.

Skobtseva (1966)

The most epic version of the story is Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk's massive four part adaption first screened from 1966 to 1967.  In his version Hélène is played by Bondarchuk's wife, Irina Skobtseva, who was 39 at the time, the oldest actress to play the part.

Ekberg (1956)

King Vidor's 1956 version had the sumptuous 25 year old Swedish actress Anita Ekberg appearing as Hélène.  She certainly knew how to present an Empire line dress.

Gaunt (1972)

Perhaps even more upfront in her presentation was 25 year old Fiona Gaunt in the 1972 BBC production.  She certainly kept a twelve year old Agent Triple P watching between the battle scenes.  Gaunt appeared (as a brunette) in tedious BBC science fiction series Moonbase 3 the following year but other than a few guest roles disappeared after that.

Placido (2007)

In 2007 there was a French TV mini-series version of the story and here Hélène was played by 31 year old Italian actress and singer Violante Placido, who also filled an early nineteenth century dress very well indeed.

So, although Middleton's performance is very good we find her far too skinny following a long line of curvy actresses playing the part and we still prefer the pneumatic Fiona Gaunt from the 1972 version.  Admittedly, she couldn't really act but she looked quite superb!


  1. When I read "War and Peace" back in the 70s, it really did not seem sexy at all; but hey, this is Andrew Davies!

  2. We had a brief glimpse of breast and bottom from Tuppence last night. Most pleasing. (Actually, the buttocks could have been those of a double, as they were quite distant.)