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Masculinity and Femininity

Masculinity and Femininity


Bonaparte’s Beast of Burden

Alte und neue Welt [1869]: Illustriertes Katholisches Familienblatt Zur Unterhaltung und Belehrung, selection from p. 9, 1869, illustration after portrait by Jacque-Louis David, published by Benziger Brothers: New York, USA

Jacque-Louis David’s famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps alters a few details of the event in order to capture a more romanticized version. Among David’s edits idealizing dynamism, power, and boldness, the painter gave Napoleon a horse.[1] In reality, Napoleon was an unsure rider and made the crossing on the back of a mule, as the terrain made necessary. The rearing horse plays a vital role in the symbolism of Napoleon’s confidence and energy. Now imagine this painting with a docile mule instead. Yet also consider that numerous cultures outside of Britain classify the mule within the same high class as horses.[2]



Tiger Girl

'The Mystery-Maid of Africa: Tiger Girl,' from Fight Comics, No. 81, front cover, July 1952, published by Fight Stories, Inc.: New York, USA

The comic strip ‘Tiger Girl’ continues the association of women and cats, but rather than the immorality shared with black felines, this heroine gains strength and ferocity through alliance with large, black-and-orange killers. An icon of the growing feminism movement, interpreted through male eyes, Tiger Girl fights dictatorial men alongside her pack of tigers. Despite the attempt at progressive imagery, this cover illustration shows the pair of outstretched, human-looking tiger paws bracketing the suggestively bare thighs of Tiger Girl. Not even forward-thinking stands in the way of the sensationalist use of animalism and sex.



[1] A Closer Look: Jacques-Louis David, 2012, published by the National Gallery of Victoria

[2] Animal Encounters: Human and Animal Interaction in Britain from the Norman Conquest to World War One, p. 93, 2012, Macgregor, Arthur, published by Reaktion Books: London, UK