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Two Women Embracing
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Unknown
French, 1847 - 1853
Hand-colored daguerreotype
1/4 x 5 11/16 in.
84.XT.172.6

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Two women gaze adoringly at one another and physically interact. The woman on top places her hand under the other's breast as if caressing it, but their frontally oriented and ultimately awkward-looking poses are clearly meant for the pleasure of the observer, not for each other. The photographer has carefully positioned both bodies for full revelation. The two women mirror each other in their pose and flesh and are even placed in front of a mirror so that seemingly no inch of them is left unrevealed.

The lesbian content of this plate might seem surprising for its time, but Paris supplied a booming international market for erotic imagery in the mid-nineteenth century. Other erotic French photographs commonly featured a single woman whose suggestive posturing teetered between artist's study, or académie, and pornography, which was at the same time surging in popularity.