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Picturing a World

Corset sculptor

Television advertisements often involve short narratives. Print ads can carry implicit stories, too. This one for Thomson's Glove Fitting Corset is full of delicious details for an imaginary 19th C female artist. The window overlooking rooftops, the geranium on the sill, the rough wooden wall, the propped-up canvas on the left. Ah, Bohemia. But the fancy overhead lamp, the potted plant, the bow at the artist's neck, her hair: Ah, fashion. And the circlet with a crescent moon on the sculpture's head: Diana! What to make of it all?

Well, I doubt that any serious female artist ever sculpted a clay bust of a corset, nor was she ever dressed so prettily while she worked. Presumably, the advertiser wanted to associate corsets with a La Bohème sort of glamor. We can dismiss the picture as the basis for an episode in a realistic story, but as the way into attitudes for characters in a period piece? Maybe. Or, wait a minute, what about a story with a female artist who makes a living as a commercial painter in advertising? Maybe she creates a series of ads with female artists at work.
This image, comes, incidentally, from Linehan Corset Company & the Linehan - Conover Company, an article at a website called the City of Corsets, Worcester, Massachusetts. It really was the site of major corset manufacturing. For year, my husband and I lived there, while he worked for the American Antiquarian Society. We were tickled to learn that the Society stored a set of old catalogue cards in corset boxes because they were exactly the right size. Now there's story, too! (Once upon a time, there was a librarian, who …)


Addendum: I've just found another bust of a corset-wearer on an advertising card!

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