Friday, 29 July 2011

Venus with a snake 10: Leonor Varela

It's time for another Venus with a snake so here is the sultry Chilean actress/model Leonor Varela snuggled up to the requisite reptile.

Until we found this picture we had not been aware of Ms Varela which is a shame as she looks very much like Agent Triple P's sort of woman.

As an actress she is best known for appearing in the title role of Cleopatra, one of those dreadful Hallmark mini-series set in the ancient world which Triple P is so addicted to and tends to pick up on sale in HMV in Canada.  Triple P actually has this series on DVD but hasn't watched it yet, something we will now do.

Leonor was born in Santiago, Chile the daughter of a neuroscientist and a massage therapist.  Her mother is of mixed French, Hungarian and Syrian descent which explains her exotic looks.

Varela was born at the end of 1972 but the following year her family fled Chile following the military coup led by General Pinochet.  They moved to Costa Rica and then Paris.  When her parents moved back to Chile in the early nineties she remained in Paris where she studied acting.

She appered in her first TV series at the age of thirteen and has worked in French, US and Chilean productions on both TV and in the cinema.  She appeared in The Tailor of Panama (2001), Blade II (2002) and Stargate: Atlantis.  During her time on Cleopatra (1999) she started going out with co-star Billy Zane and they actually got engaged before he went off with Kelly Brook.


Lenor is very interested in matters relating to the conservation of the ocean and is a supporter of the Save the Whales Again campaign, which gives her bonus points in Agent Triple P's book

Ms Varela is now 38 and still looking extremely gorgeous, we have to say, and is a very fine example for the first Chilean Venus on this site.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Centrefold Venus of the Month 26: Florence Maurier, July 1972

From July 1972 we have Florence Maurier who was, according to Men Only, from which this pictorial comes, one of France's top fashion models.

Photographed by Jean-Pierre Bourgois she certainly looks like she could be a fashion model, with her stunning face and slender figure.

A successful model too, with her "luxury apartment in Montparnasse" complete with sauna and plunge pool as well as a house near Le Mans.

Of course, unlike Playboy or even Penthouse in the early days, the text accompanying the models' pictures was, in Paul Raymond's magazines, entirely fictitious so, in truth, we know nothing about Florence at all.

It is an interesting conceit of these magazines that they felt it necessary to persuade people that their models were different people than they, in fact, were.  Partly this could be explained by the model herself wanting anonymity and not wanting to use her real name.

At least in Florence's case they admit she is a model rather than a secretary, bank cashier, au-pair girl or whatever else they would claim the girls to be.  Perhaps the reason that these magazines claimed their models were from ordinary jobs was to suggest that they were attainable girls who the readers could, perhaps meet. 

Admitting Florence was a model goes against this but this is probably because it would be hard to claim that such a spectacular looking woman could be anything else. 

Later, of course, other magazines would discover the appeal of less attractive, but more "real"  women, with the readers's wives phenomenon (in the US very much started by Gallery's Girl next Door feature) which would eventually spawn their own dedicated magazines.

The article also claims that she is half Scottish but then, again, it was common for the magazines to claim that their featured girl was British or part British even if she was foreign.  Again, they were trying to relate the girl to the experience of their readers, obviously thinking that a German or French girl would be that much more exotic and that less attainable.  You won't bump into the centrefold on your way down to the pub if she lives in Paris.

So this leaves us in a situation where we have to appreciate Florence only for her visual representation; a process which is, we feel, a lot more honest than a publisher trying to persuade us that she has anything in common with us, as the "reader".

After all, why does such a lovely young woman need any explanatory text at all.  Why not just print the pictures with no text or captions whatsoever? 

We suppose that it all started with Playboy who, of course, really were presenting the idea of "the girl next door" even if she did happen to be a model anyway.  Their text telling us about the girl in their Playmate feature often being a significant challenge for their writers.  In fact the writers were rotated often to stop them "going up the wall".

Playboy never lied about any of its girls in their accompanying text.  If it said she was a nuclear physicist, she was a nuclear physicist.  That didn't mean that unappealing facts (like whether the Playmate was married) weren't left out.

All of this discussion becomes relevant as we examine two more appearances by "Florence" in other magazines.

Three months after her Men Only appearance Florence popped up in the first ever issue of Oui magazine in October 1972.  Hugh Hefner, surprised by the success of Penthouse since its launch in the US in September 1969, had decided that the reason for Bob Guccione's success was that his magazine, put together in London, was more "European".

He signed a deal with Daniel Filipacchi, publisher of French Playboy clone Lui, to produce a new magazine with half European and half American content.  Florence was the magazine's first centrefold.  The feature didn't purport to tell you anything about her, other than her name was Florence Fossorier, as it was headed "Sixteen facts about French women". 

There is little doubt that Florence Maurier and Florence Fossorier (photographed for Oui by Frank Gitty) are the same girl but then the same girl appearing under different names in different magazines was quite usual.

Gitty has her wearing rather more clothes than in her Men Only shoot; to greater peek-a-boo effect.

One thing that Oui did which the other magazines hadn't done at this point was to include a man in their centrefold shoot.

This was not, it has to be said, particularly popular with their readers but Oui persisted with this for another year.

At the end of the following year Penthouse did include a man in their centrefold shoot for December 1973 but they didn't actually include him in the centrefold as Oui did here with Florence.

Oui's centrefold of Florence was notorious for a reason other than the inclusion of a man, however.  Penthouse, well aware that Oui was designed to take readership from them (and Guccione smarting from the fact that he had been about to sign a deal with Filipacchi before Hefner trumped him) accused Oui of using a former Penthouse Pet of the Month for their first centrefold.

Oui's Florence Fossorier was, according to Penthouse, none other than their own March 1971 centrefold, Lottie Gunthart and she wasn't French but Austrian.

Oui denied this and insisted she was French and a completely different girl.  As the New York magazine observed in November 1972: "If she wasn't Lottie then she was her twin."

So, is it the same girl?  After careful examinination we believe that it is the same girl in all three pictorials.  Other than her face, Florence Maurier and Lottie Gunthart share a distinctive mole in exactly the same place under the right breast. 

You can't see the mole in Oui's Florence Fosorier pictures as she keeps her top on in most of the pictures except her centrefold.  We believe that the mole isn't visible in the Oui centrefold picture because it has been printed as a reverse image.

Gunthart/Maurier has one round nipple and one oval one.  Oui has flipped the image so that the round one is visible meaning that the mole on her right side is now on her left side and invisble in the Oui centrefold.

The matter is further confused by the fact that her mole doesn't appear in the picture above but does in her centrefold, which is from the same sequence.

So is she French or Austrian?  The truth of the matter is, of course, that it doesn't matter but given that Penthouse had no reason to lie about her nationality and Oui (or Lottie herself) may not have wanted her to be too identifiable as a previous Penthouse Pet, then we are inclined to go for Austrian.

Probably only the lovely Florence/Lottie herself can confirm the issue.

Lottie was only the ninth Pet to flash her pubic hair to this point and she does so more than any of her predeccesors.

This picture in front of the window was the most full frontal picture Penthouse had shown so far.  At this time they had still not had a full-frontal centrefold, however, so Lottie keeps her knickers on in hers.

Lottie had actually appeared in Penthouse before her centrefold, as one of the two women in Penthouse's first girl/girl set from December 1971 photographed, like her later Penthouse Pet feature, by Dutch-born photographer James Baes.  You can see that pictorial in full here.  Here she is, again, identified as Lottie Gunthart, an Austrian model.

It has been suggested that she is also Lotti Günthardt, an actress who appeared in the 1976 Swiss film Der Gehülfe, a German language film.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Design for The Red Sultana by Léon Bakst (1920)

This sensuous harem girl is probably none other than Scheherazade herself in this "costume" design by Russian artist Léon Samoilovitch Bakst.  Bakst was born Lev Samoilovich Rosenberg in Grodno in what is now Belarus in May 1866.  He studied art in St Petersburg and Paris adopting the non-Jewish sounding name Bakst (from his mother's family) at the time of his first exhibition in 1889.

Self portrait

In 1898 he began an association with Sergei Diaghilev which eventually led to Bakst becoming the artistic director of the Ballets Russes where he concentrated on stage and costume design.  Incidentally, Rimsky-Korsakov's widow, the formidable, Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova, wrote to Diaghilev protesting about him using her late husband's music for his ballet in 1910.

Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev by Bakst

Although Bakst continued to paint conventional portraits and other paintings gradually he evolved a distinctive illustrative style that had an effect on the Fauvists and, indeed, the whole Art Deco movement. Bakst also travelled to North Africa and studied with the French orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme.  In turn, one of Bakst students was Marc Chagall.

Model (1905)

He worked on productions of, amongst others, Scheherazade (1910), The Firebird (1910) Carnaval (1910), Narcisse (1911), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), and Daphnis and Chloé (1912) for Diaghilev.  In 1922 he broke off his relationship with the Ballets Russes and Diaghilev, his final collaboration being La Princesse Endormie in 1921.  He died in Paris, where he had spent most of his active life, in 1924.

Costume design for Russian ballerina Ida Rubenstein as Cléopatre (1909)

The featured painting could never have been meant to be a serious costume design, even in somewhere as liberal as Paris in 1920, but it is a splendid confection that exudes a sleepy sensuality.