Topless Dancing Girl
CDV-format albumen print of two Arab dancing girls, one partially nude, by Ermé Desiré, circa 1865. Imprinted front "Désiré & Cie. Phot." and on reverse "Royer & Aufière / Photographes de S. A. I. le Prince Napoléon. / Désiré & Cie. Successeurs au Caire (Egypte)." Inscribed in pencil on reverse "Danseuses... " (Dancers...).
The professional "dancing girls" of cultures ranging from France to the Middle East all had bad reputations in the 19th century. In Egypt, professional dancing and prostitution were the traditional preserve of the same tribes. The present image of a topless young thing presented by her elder "handler" draws on these connotations for the benefit of the European tourists who would have been the main market for Egyptian cartes-de-visite.
Images and text copyright © 2014 by Christopher Wahren Fine Photographs