Vogue Paris, September 1939.
📷: Horst P. Horst
“Horst P. Horst’s Mainbocher Corset is the famed photographer’s most celebrated image, and has become one of the most recognisable fashion photographs of the twentieth century. The photograph is laced with an elegant eroticism, charged by the semi-nude model, Horst’s ingenious lighting, and the corset itself. At the time Parisian lingerie was considered highly desirable and the corset had come back into fashion in the 1930s after a period of unpopularity during the previous decade. By 1939 American women were spending over $100 million per year on brassières and corsets. As an item of clothing it came laden with obvious sexual connotations that brought Horst’s photograph a certain notoriety. The original negative showed the left hand side of the corset hanging away from the model’s side. This was considered too risqué for publication and so the negative was retouched to look like the corset fitted snuggly onto the model’s body. However the photograph also delivers another layer of sophistication in the motif of the back of the nude, referencing several art historical precedents including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ Neoclassical nudes and Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres (1924).”