Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The First Wardrobe Malfunction (Monnier, 1830)

by Stephen J. Gertz

Plate 6 from Boutades by Henri Monnier, 1830.
Marie 460.

If you think that Janet Jackson's Nipplegate spearheaded the Wardrobe Malfunction movement (the movement of bare breasts beyond boundaries), you are mistaken.

If you think that the latest episode of These Errant Breasts, Kelly Rowland's Nipples Go Rogue, is shocking, simply shocking, you're in for a surprise.

In 1830, Henri Monnier, the master of whimsical caricature satirizing the pretensions of French society, published Boutades, an album containing six hand-colored lithographed plates depicting, with his characteristic jovial elán, the ridiculous, freakish caprices of the Parisian social set.

Plate number six, appropriately titled, Explosion, provides us with what is, to the best of my research, the first documented example of When Breasts Accidentally Go Wild. Here, it appears that a young Parisian woman, her size ten tetons stuffed into a size two blouse for maximum fashionably chic decolletage,  has become a victim of her vanity, physics winning this battle of the bulge, public safety  the loser. A person could get hurt, the dame's seins slapping passersby.

Though celebrity "nip-slips" - accidental or accidentally on purpose - have become all too common, Boutades is a color-plate album of extreme scarcity, with no copies coming to auction within the last thirty-six years. OCLC/KVK locate only one copy in libraries worldwide, at the Getty Research Institute Library.

MONNIER, Henry. Boutades. Paris: Delpech, n.d. [1830].

First edition. Oblong quarto (10 1/4 x 13 1/4 in; 260 x 336 mm). Six hand-colored lithographs, lithographed title-plate with uncolored vignette.

Loose, as issued, within a hand-colored wrapper-folder, lettered in yellow and red, depicting a liveried black servant offering a group of caricatures for  our consideration, the image reiterated, uncolored, on the title-plate.

The Plates:
1. La Lecture du journal.
2. Dilettanti.
3. Idée riante.
4. Méditation.
5. Tapisseries.
6. Explosion.

Marie 454-460.

Image courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our  thanks.

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