Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ancient Greek/Roman/Libyan Venuses: Aphrodite Kyrene and Leptis Magna Venus

Today we have a story of treasures taken from their origin and latterly returned which, strangely, mirrors the fate of the wife of one of the owners of one of these statues. Here is the splendid statue known as The Aphrodite of Kyrene. Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of love, beauty and (the one that is often left out) sexual rapture. She is, of course, the Roman Venus.

Most people know that she arose from the sea and, indeed, her name is derived from ἀφρός (aphros) meaning foam. The full, rather bloodthirsty, myth is that she was born when Ouranos (Uranus) was castrated by his son Kronos who overthrew his father. Kronos was later the father of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Kronos threw the severed genitals into the sea which started to boil and foam. From this foam arose Aphrodite and the sea carried her to Cyprus on a scallop shell.

Kyrene today

Kyrene, where the statue was found, was a Greek city founded in 610 BC which lies in what are now the Jebel Akhdar higlands of Libya. The city was named after the huntress daughter of King Hypseus of Lapthis. In 1912 the Italians grabbed the region from the Ottoman Empire and the following year the statue was discovered by Italian troops when torrential rain washed away the topsoil at Trajan's Baths. It was sent off to Rome where it was displayed in the Baths of Diocletian. It is a Roman copy of a Greek original probably dating from the second century BC.

The statue in Rome

Last year an Italian court ruling said that the statue should be returned to Libya under an agreement between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Libyan leader Col. Gadaffi (along with $5 billion in compensation for their occupation of Libya from 1912 until 1943). Italy has previously returned another Venus to Libya (the Leptis Magna Venus) to help in their global campaign to retrieve their own "looted antiquities".

The Leptis Magna Venus in Tripoli

The Leptis Magna Venus is also a Roman copy (2nd Century BC) of a Greek original by the famous sculptor Praxiteles (4th Century BC). It was excavated in Leptis Magna (also in Libya) in the 1920s and was acquired by Benito Mussolini who gave it as a present to Hermann Göring who displayed it in the Festhalle of his country estate, Carinhall, near Berlin.

The Leptis Magna Venus in Carinhall


The use of a "C" for the start of a word is unusual in German but Carinhall was named after Göring's wife Carin von Kantzow (nee Fock), the daughter of a Swedish aristocrat. Göring met her after the Great War when he was making a living as a pilot flying passengers and mail between Germany and Sweden.
They married in 1923 (after she had divorced her husband) and, as an ardent Nazi it was her who encouraged him to become more involed in the National Socialist party. She died of tuberculosis in 1931 and was buried in Sweden. Two years later Göring collected her remains and entombed her in a specially built crypt at the house he was building, which he would call Carinhall in her memory. Carinhall saw many famous guests other than senior Nazis and Mussolini. Former American President Herbert Hoover, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Charles Lindbergh, the kings of Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia and Willi Messerschmitt all stayed there. The house was destroyed in March 1945 on Göring's orders to stop the Russians capturing it.
Hitler and Göring at carin's tomb at Carinhall
Most (but not all) of the art was removed just before the explosives went off. Carin Göring's tomb was vandalised by Russian troops and her bones scattered. In 1950 a Swedish priest returned to what was now East Germany collected her bones in a sack and returned them to Sweden where she was reburied in the Fock family plot where she had originally been interred in 1931.

Carin Göring's tomb in Sweden

Carin II

In one final, strange twist, Göring named his motor yacht Carin II (the original Carin, he decided was not imposing enough). It survived the war and was even used, it is said, by the Royal family on trips to Holland in the 1950s. Latterly this was bought by a man who was trying to build a resort..in Libya! He got into trouble with Gaddafi and was imprisoned there for a year. He died and the yacht, now lying in the Red Sea in Egypt. is up for sale by his widow!

The Leptis Magna Venus is now on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Tripoli. Next time Agent Triple P is in Tripoli he intends to pop in to see it and, indeed, the Aphrodite Kyrene if it has arrived there by that time!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Centrefold Venus of the Month 3: August - Yvonne Ekman

Yvonne. Elegant.

From August 1967 comes the extremely elegant Yvonne Ekman, Penthouse's first Danish Pet of the Month.

Beauty Queen Yvonne had been Miss Denmark for 1965 and Penthouse proudly trumpeted her status on the cover.

Yvonne (far right) in the Miss Europe contest

In its early days Penthouse presented a fair number of beauty queens from around the world.  Miss World (the UK equivalent of Miss Universe) was one of the most popular TV shows of the year on British television and Triple P remembers watching it with his family from quite a young age.

There was no question of any sexual interest in the women at that age, of course, but it was "event" televison, like the Eurovision Song Contest or the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show, and it would be much discussed afterwards at school. 

Agent Triple P's father, of course, who bought the copy of Penthouse from which Triple P scanned these pictures was certainly interested in women and it may well be that his commentary on their faces, legs (he was very much a leg man) and other attributes contributed to Triple P's later appreciation of women.

Triple P's mother, who had been a journalist for a major women's magazine, provided appropriate commentary on the relevant fashions that were paraded.  It was certainly the Miss World competition that made Triple P realise what vital statistics were and why they were important!

From Penthouse's point of view the appeal of beauty queens was, of course, that everyone wanted to know what they looked like out of their swimsuits.  In Yvonne's case the answer was not disappointing!

One fact that was generally agreed upon in Triple P's house was that the most beautiful girl rarely won the competition!  Yvonne had made the semi final of Miss World and also came 5th in Miss Europe that year. 

Penthouse discovered Yvonne on the set of the film The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966).  The magazine often featured pictorials from the set of a film that featured beautiful women and sometimes, as in this case, they persuaded some of these girls to pose for the magazine as well. 

She's in there somewhere!

This was the case for Brides but, oddly, Yvonne wasn't one of the girls chosen to display her charms in the original pictorial, which appeared in the May 1966 issue, as Penthouse rather shamefacedly admitted in the text accompanying her Pet of the Month feature. In fact, Yvonne's hair can just be glimpsed behind the girl in the purple dress in the bottom left picture on the page above.

Yvonne is tied to a pillar second from left in The Brides of Fu Manchu

Yvonne (right) decorates the set as Rupert (Maigret) Davies takes centre stage

In this film, based on Sax Rohmer's character (played by Christopher Lee as one of the unlikeliest looking Chinese on film) Fu Manchu is kidnapping the daughters of scientists and using this fact to blackmail them into working on his death ray.  Yvonne, of course, was one of the daughters who Fu Manchu kept tied up in his dungeon (quite understandably).

Yvonne was born in February 1945.

Yvonne's vital statistics were a nicely symmetrical 34.5/24/34.5 and she was 5'6" tall.

Yvonne was one of the candidates for Pet of the Year for 1968 (losing out to the hugely pneumatic Brandy) and this extra picture (above) of her appeared in the Pet play-off issue.

Yvonne, we have to say, had one of the best figures of any of the early Penthouse Pets.

Yvonne, who was 21 when these pictures were taken, made seven other Danish films between 1964 and 1971. What a splendid rear!

Yvonne appeared in several other mens magazines at the time.  Here she is as the centrefold (there were no other pictures of her) in the weekly Parade.  Published by City Magazines this featured jokes, short stories, cinema gossip, sports and news stories.  In this issue, for example there was an information piece on the new colour televisions (which were going to cost £300 in Britain!).  Black and white pictures of girls in swimsuits and topless (this was pre-Page 3) were scattered through the short (32 pages) weekly. Yvonne's pose here predates her Penthouse feature by two months. 

Here is Yvonne looking very sportif in Figure Photography even earlier, for Spring 1967.

Even more surprising is that photos from the same session of Yvonne's Penthouse shoot had already appeared in Cavalier magazine's May 1967 issue in the US.  This was before Penthouse was published in the US, of course.

The opening shots of the pictorial are all very swinging sixties with Yvonne very much a la mode in London.  We can date the time the pictorial was shot from the poster for the comedy thriller Our Man in Marrakesh on the bus.  This was released in the UK in April 1966; so more than a year before these pictures appeared in Cavalier and more than that until the Penthouse pictorial.  The 73 bus runs from Victoria Station to Stoke Newington via Park Lane, Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and Islington but we don't recognise the building on the right so don't know what road this is.

All the other pictures are of her in the same interior as that in the Penthouse pictorial with the same flower behind her ear..

She was represented by the Paris-based  Élysée 3 modelling agency and here is her model card from 1969.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Centrefold Venus of the Month 2: August - Myrna Weber

From August 1958 we bring you spectacular redhead Myrna Weber, looking edible in a feature called Playmate on a Picnic.  Myrna is an Irish Gaelic name meaning "beloved".

The picture of, then just 19 year old, Myrna (although Fifties make-up makes her look older) was taken by photographer Bunny (real first names Linnea Elenor) Yeager (b. 1930) in Florida.

The story behind the pictorial was that Myrna was on a picnic, so we have a picture of her getting ready to set off to the beach.

When she gets there she obviously decides to strip off and go skinny dipping, although whether this is before the picnic or after is never made clear!

Myrna hardly reveals anything to the camera, even by the standards Playboy in the nineteen fifties.  Other pictures taken during the shoot are no different  and it is only in a couple, including this one, which didn't appear in the magazine, where she reveals a little glimpse of her nipple.

Here she is on the beach bo doubt tuning in to some hip and groovy rock and roll.

This is the most revealing shot she posed for in a series of rather nice interior studies.  The pictures in the magazine being mainly exterior shots.

This small colour shot appeard in the magazine some years later  but gives us the colour scheme for this sequence.

Finally, we have a few more colour shots of Myrna which appeared in the magazine on different occasions.

This was Myrna's Playmate review shot from the January 1959 issue.

Bunny Yeager clicks for the camera

Former glamour model Yeager had, of course, previously photographed cult model Bettie Page and had been instrumental in bringing her to the attention of Hugh Hefner who made her Playmate of the Month for January 1954.

Yeager was also famous for photographing the iconic shots of Ursula Andress from the Jamaican beach set of Dr No (1962).

Playboy photographers at the time worked to a strict artistic brief from Playboy HQ in Chicago. Yeager was told to produce a centrefold picture with a camp fire in the foreground against a sea reflecting a sunset. Now Yeager was based in Miami where the sea is to the east of the beach so had to drive across the whole of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico coast to find her west facing beach to enable her to catch the sunset.