Postcard illustration; publisher: (The Gray Lithograph Company), Circa 1903;
Gouache & watercolor, 20 x 12", not signed
The Male Gaze 120 years ago. We joke about how ridiculous it was when men got all titillated at the sight of a woman's ankles. It seems that it was thought ridiculous even then, when it was about the only part of a woman's legs a man was likely to get a glimpse of in public, as shown in this slyly humorous postcard illustration. Ostensibly, the cobbler has only a professional interest in studying the lady's footwear. In case you miss the point, he is reading the Observer and her stockings have a striking design to emphasize the ankle. As in later pinup art, the woman's personality is besides the point; she doesn't even need to have a head. The artist may be English, given the fastidious watercolor craftsmanship, but this illustrator is unlikely to be in the famous category, since he (we assume it's a he) has not mastered the art of perspective note the lopsided chair and impossible stovepipe.