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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Unshaven Venus 3: Sleeping Bather (1850) by Théodore Chassériau (1827-1877)

This fine classical nude by Théodore Chassériau is typical of many from the first half of the nineteenth century, except for the inclusion of the model's very un-classical thatched armpit. Also know as Bather sleeping near a Spring and Nymph it is a remarkably realistic nude portrait for the time. It was a body that the artist knew well, however, as she was his lover, Alice Ozy.  The painting was done in 1850 and is now in the Calvet Museum in Avignon.

Alice Ozy (1820-1893) was born Julie Justine Pilloy, the daughter of a Parisian jeweller.  Julie (as she then was) was brought up by her mother, as her father left her mother before she was born.  The young Julie got a job in an embroidery school but had to leave at the age of twelve due to the unwanted attentions of her boss.  Her mother took her to Lyon where her sister Rose Ozi lived and she found work in an embroidery shop there.  Her beauty and charm were such that she was soon promoted from the workshop to the store counter.  Returning to Paris, the sixteen year old Julie caught the eye of twenty two year old actor Louis Brindeau at a dance hall in Montparnasse.  He suggested she become an actress (he suggested several other things to her as well) and got her some small roles.  She got her first real role in vaudeville at the age of seventeen and took the stage name Alice Ozy (based on her mother's maiden name).  For the next five years her roles and acclaim increased until by 1845, she was one of the best regarded young actresses in Paris.

Alice Ozy in 1842 by Vinvent Vidal

With this fame came wealthy male admirers and in 1841 she was introduced to Baron Cesar Lecat Bazancourt, the French writer and soon after starts a relationship with a Polish aristocrat from the Wieloposki family as well.  Like many actresses of the time she  became a courtesan, being paid by wealthy men for ' companionship'.  Bazancourt and Wieloposki were so enamoured of her they agreed to share her.  Wieloposki died at quite a young age and left Ozy around 75,000 francs in his will.  In 1843 she started a relationship with the novelist and poet Theophile Gautier as well as the writer Nestor Roqueplan.  During this period Alice was a busy and popular young lady also fitting in liaisons with the Emperor Napoleon's son, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Napoleon III of France as well as Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale, the son of the then King of France Louis-Philippe.  In order to avoid being recognised, when she accompanied the latter out she often dressed as a man.  Her relationship with Prince Louis-Napoléon was ended, however, when she accepted the gift of a carriage and horses from another lover, Edouard de Perregaux, the wealthy son of a banker.

Alice Ozy by Chassériau (1848)

She was not short of suitors and was having an affair with Charles Hugo, the son of the novelist Victor Hugo.  Charles, fed up with Alice's other lovers asked his father what he should do about the situation whereupon Victor bombarded her with erotic poems and took her as his (additional) mistress instead, much to his son's annoyance. All this ended in 1848 when she fled Paris for London, during the revolution and she appeared at the St James' Theatre, briefly.

Alice Ozy by Chassériau (1849)

When  she returned to Paris later in 1848 she started a two year but tempestuous relationship with the painter Théodore Chassériau, despite her thinking that he looked like a monkey.  Victor Hugo was not amused.  Their relationship ended when she asked him for one of his paintings which he intended for his family.  He refused but she insisted and eventually, in order to end the arguments, he gave in to her.  It just happened that he was enjoying breakfast with Alice at her apartment when the painting arrived by carriage from his studio.  In a fit of remorse at giving the painting to Alice, he slashed it to ribbons in front of her and walked out on her.

Alice later had a relationship with and modelled for the painter Thomas Couture (1815-1879), who painted her several times.

She is believed to be the female figure at the bottom right of Couture's post Bacchanalian painting Le souper à la Maison d'or (1855). Strangely, this was meant to be a design for a wallpaper pattern and languished in Couture's studio for years, eventually being bought by the Art Gallery of Vancouver in 1931 until it deteriorated so much that it was put in the gallery's cellar, not being restored until 2013.

Alice Ozy by Amaury Duval (1852)

She retired from the stage in 1855 and reverted to her birth name of Julie Pilloy. using her friends in the banking world and stock market to increase her fortune.  She bought a house in Enghien-les-Bains, six  miles north of Paris and also kept an apartment in the city at 91 Boulevard Haussmann.

Time Slaying Love

Another lover of Ozy's was the artist Gustave Doré, who designed a special clock for Ozy's apartment in Paris where it was displayed in the entrance hall.  Called Time Slaying Love it shows Time slaying cherubs with his spear.  The message from Ozy (or Pilloy as she now was, once more) was that any relationship with her was going to be fleeting as time is the enemy of love. 

9 Boulevard Haussmann today

Julie Justine Pilloy remained unmarried (although far from without male companionship) and died in her apartment at 91 Boulevard Haussmann on March 3rd 1892 at the age of 72.

She was buried at Paris' famous Père-Lachaise cemetery in an ornate tomb designed on her instructions by the architect Constant Moyaux (1835-1911).  The statue of the virgin and child was a marble copy of a bronze by by Léon Fagel based on a drawing by Doré, appropriately.  Although her tomb now carries the name Alice Ozy it originally had her real name, Pilloy, on it.

Julie Justine Pilloy 6th August 1820- 3rd March 1893

Alice Ozy made the best of her looks and charm and became not just a courtesan but one of Paris' great grandes-horizontales, lover to many of the most important and influential men of her day and one who made and kept her fortune.  More courtesans another time.

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