Prints depicting beautiful women were often influenced by other forms of popular culture. Some of the finest prints produced in the United States were copies of admired European and American paintings. Print artists also created their own original representations of heroic characters from novels and theatrical presentations.

Regrets. Claude-Marie Dubufe, c. 1827–1835

This very fine print is a copy of an 1827 painting by the French artist Claude-Marie Dubufe. It represents an exceptionally high level of artistic skill and is a good example of the high standards to which many American artists and art publishers aspired. The subject is provocative—a young, half-dressed, beautiful woman was racy subject matter. The title implies that she has done something that she might now regret.

Regrets is part of a series of paintings by Claude-Marie Dubufe that depict women in private moments of romantic sadness, with erotic overtones. The aesthetic merits of such pieces allowed the artist and admirers to defend its racy subject matter.

Note: original painting, drawing and related works at the Norton Simon Museum

Detail from Regrets c. 1827-1835. 21 x 27 cm


Clorinda. D. W. Kellogg & Co., c. 1830–1842

Clorinda was a virgin Muslim warrior who was glorified in the Italian baroque epic poem "Jerusalem Delivered." Italian and English writers from the sixteenth century onward continued to glorify her in poetry, drama, opera, and painting. The stories told of her heroism during the First Christian Crusade of the eleventh century, her conversion to Christianity, and her untimely death. Clorinda was glorified in a number of European paintings, often in dramatic scenes of battle. In this print from the Society's collection, she is distinctly Catholic—a religion reviled by many Americans at the time—as evidenced by the rosary and cross that hang from her arm. She is in the process of adjusting her veil, another marker of female Catholic piety and female modesty in general. The sheerness of her veil does suggest modesty, but it also suggests luxury, and because of its sheerness, it is designed to titillate the viewer by creating an air of mystery about the beautiful Clorinda. As with so many other images of beautiful women, here Clorinda's beauty is meant to suggest her inner virtues.

Detail from Clorinda c. 1830-1842. 31 x 26 cm


The Water lily. c. 1830?

Here the artist equates feminine beauty with the natural beauty of a flower. This image is part of an older tradition of associating women with nature, and men with civilization and culture. This image was also published on the cover of the sheet music for the popular love song "Alice Grey," which tells of a young man’s unrequited attraction for the subject of the song.

Detail from The Water lily c. 1830? 53 x 36 cm


The Pride of New England. c. 1827-1845

In this image, beauty and virtue go hand in hand. This young woman is meant to glorify New Englanders' pride about their home region, while implying the virtuousness of all of its inhabitants. In this way, she is an emblem not only of northeastern femininity but also of all that is admirable about New England.

This composition, reversed, was published by D.W. Kellogg & Co. in 1835 with the title "Sarah." Many images like this one were stylized idealizations of women rather than portraits of models. A number of publishers produced series of images of a variety of idealized female types, and each variation was assigned a different name, personalizing the image and suggesting to viewers that the image represented real, specific women, rather than simply an artist's fancy.

Detail from The Pride of New England
c. 1827-1845. 53 x 37 cm


Marguerite. Louis Prang & Co. (after Ferdinand Wagner), c. 1880

This image probably represents the tragic heroine of Faust, a popular stage play and opera in the nineteenth century.

Detail from Marguerite c. 1880.  51 x 41 cm


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