Nude Reclining

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Raymond DuCroix (b.1825 Chamonix, France) was one of the father figures of the French Impressionist movement in the mid 19th century.

Talented though he was, much of his early work involving the female form was mocked by savvy critics of the day because of the inaccuracies in some of the anatomical detail. Hard to believe in this day and age that an adult man could be so ignorant of what lay beneath a woman’s bodice and petticoat. But even Renoir, possibly the most famous impressionist of them all, was not confident about depicting female nudity until after developing an intimate relationship with Lise Tréhot, who subsequently modelled for him.

The youthful and gauche DuCroix was not city bred, and arrived in the capital from a mountain region of France. He had hitherto never been with a girl, and this was quite obvious from his early nude paintings showing women with manly pecs on flat chests, upturned soup bowl breasts with petit-pois nipples, narrow hips, slim bottoms, and a laryngeal prominence. Although he would add hair, facial details and raiment accurately, when it came to genitalia, it was all pretty much guesswork, and bad guesses at that. All this changed after a visit by DuCroix to Albert Gastonne’s now famous bar on Rue de la Bête in Paris.

Gastonne’s café, an artisan honeypot, was waitressed by several voluptuous and flirty girls, comely wenches of the day one might say. They often doubled, given the chance, as artist’s models. And slipped a few extra francs, bed-partners too, according to rumour.

However, one of the table girls, Mlle Claudette Scallier, to whom nature had been less than kind when dishing out attributes of conventional beauty, relied entirely on a waitress’s tips for her living.

On this particular evening visit, Raymond plucked up the nerve to write a message to one of the more flamboyant girls, asking that she model for a ‘nude reclining’ series he was undertaking. The Maltepe Escort barman delivered the note, and soon there was merriment in the bar, as the girl was heard to remonstrate loudly ‘il veut me donner le con d’un buffle’ (which alas does not translate politely). Suffice to say she felt her reputation for pulchritude would be compromised by her being portrayed with certain buffalo-like features. The humiliated DuCroix sat with his beer, alone and dejected.

Claudette had witnessed the incident and felt a certain empathy for the struggling artist, she too being one of society’s persona non accepto. She paused by his table, glanced round to check the barman wasn’t watching, then topped up his glass with beer from her jug, and swiftly moved on. DuCroix was touched by her gesture of kindness. Furthermore, after imbibing a quantity of the said ale, he had an idea. Fuelled with Dutch courage, he intercepted Mlle Scallier, and in an awkward whisper, invited her to his attic studio to model for him. And surprisingly, she readily accepted.

Her café shift over, Claudette walked the short distance to DuCroix’s left bank rented room. She entered the house and climbed the several flights of stairs before very discreetly tapping on his door — a lone woman calling upon a gentleman was considered injurious to one’s reputation. The artist swiftly admitted her and bade her rest in the chair, the only chair in fact, that the apartment boasted. The somewhat overweight girl was out of breath and was grateful for his consideration.

They talked banalities while each of them combatted their shyness, and DuCroix offered her a cognac in a cracked china mug. She was unused to such indulgence, and as the spirit hit the back of her throat, she coughed violently. Afraid she was choking, he patted her on the back with some force. It made no difference to the mademoiselle’s digestion, but the body contact served to break Cevizli Escort the ice, and they both eventually laughed at the incident.

The couch, the only couch, awaited its reclining subject. The back drop, some tawdry screens depicting floral landscapes from Ambrosia, set the scene. “Shall I undress, monsieur?” Claudette enquired, wary that time was ticking by.

The artist’s face reddened as realisation came upon him that he was about to become alone with a naked female. His painting techniques were considerable. His social skills were scant by comparison. “Perhaps behind the screen, mademoiselle,” he suggested, although it seemed to matter not.

He had painted numerous portraits of women in their finery, more often than not by commission from their wealthy husbands or fathers seeking to beautify their wife or daughter for purposes of vanity, dowry or social standing. How many times had he been told to paint out that blemish or reduce that plumpness?

Mlle Scallier soon reappeared from behind the screen and presented her unclothed self. The premise that the artist/model relationship should be businesslike and objective went out the window as Raymond gazed in awe at his Claudette. “Mademoiselle is truly very beautiful,” he stammered. By conventional standards she was not, but to him, she was the living Venus, only bigger.

Without a bustier corset, her voluminous unsupported breasts dropped southwards and swung as she sidled towards the divan. She was black-haired and dark-complexioned — a typically Gallic woman, and her exceptionally large areolae mesmerised and alarmed him. He never had imagined anything quite like them. She took up her reclining position. It was not exactly the pose he had in mind, but for the moment it would do.

He got to work — the unattractive facial features, her short unstyled lacklustre hair, the narrowness of her neckline, her upper arms musclebound by Atalar Escort the constant carrying of trays of filled beer mugs. He mapped the curves of her torso and the folds of her tummy, especially noting the width of her hips, nature-designed for child-bearing. His brushes stroked the canvas with a passion, as if it were his own hands caressing her body.

He at last needed to adjust her pose. “Perhaps mademoiselle could…” and he cautiously approached her. She didn’t flinch when he gently took her arm, fixing the elbow position, and then the back of her knee to complete the planned picture composition. The touch of her warm smooth skin aroused him, but he resisted, and returned to his easel.

Some while was spent meticulously blending pigments and shades to reproduce the effect of the dwindling rays of evening light which streamed through the tiny attic window, adding that vibrancy to a painting which is a principal feature of Impressionism. He hadn’t noticed that Claudette had parted the mop of hair which obliterated her mons pubis, and was moving her middle finger up and down inside her vagina.

Raymond was in uncharted territory. “Mademoiselle?” was all he could think to say.

She beckoned him over. He downed his palette and approached. She reached out and offered up her moistened finger to his lips. And for the first time in his young life, he tasted a woman.

Smock and pantaloons were hurriedly discarded, and Raymond, with no previous experience to call on, fell into Claudette’s open arms, simply doing what comes naturally. He discovered that deep inside her was a place not just moist, soft and warm, but animate. Alive with movement, contraction and expansion, fire… and passion. If only he could bring his paintings to life anywhere near so effectively…

“Nude reclining

4 by Raymond DuCroix” hangs in the Musée du Louvre on the troisième étage du Côté des Salles. The amply-proportioned woman, listed as “Claudette S”, with mole on her face, twisted mouth, and a forest of unkempt black pubic hair, is holding her middle finger to her lips. There is a sheen on her enormous bosom and she has a glint in her eye… and she is looking decidedly flushed.

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