Category Archives: voyeurism

What the Butler Saw

I have received questions about the signification of What the Butler Saw in my post on the Düsseldorf erotic art exposition [1].

I’ve introduced two fictional characters on this blog. One has been rather active, Sholem Stein[2], another, Waloli has only done three posts[3]. The butler may be third character (although the only character I now feel comfortable with – in terms of what kind of message he can bring – is Sholem Stein.

But I sometimes feel it’s easier to express things in the third person, like Facebook invites you to do in their status updates.

What the butler saw

The butler is the voyeur, the ultimate peeping tom, the man who sees everything but whose duty it is to remain silent. Silence is golden, remember?

As for the encylopedic stuff:

What the Butler Saw first referred to an early mutoscope softcore series of erotic films.

Mutoscopes were a popular feature of amusement arcades and pleasure piers from the 1890s until the mid-20th century. The typical arcade installation included multiple machines offering a mixture of fare. Both in the early days and during the revival, that mixture usually included “girlie” reels which ran the gamut from risqué to outright soft-core pornography. It was, however, common for these reels to have suggestive titles that implied more than the reel actually delivered. The title of one such reel, What the Butler Saw, became a byword, and Mutoscopes are commonly known in England as “What-the-Butler-Saw machines.” (What the butler saw, presumably through a keyhole, was a woman partially disrobing.)

What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton

English playwright Joe Orton appropriated the title What the Butler Saw to make a theatrical farce of the same name, first staged in London on 5 March 1969. Cinema-goers recognised situations used by Orton’s contemporaries, the Carry On comedians of the late 1960s. For example, Carry On Doctor was showing whilst the play was being written in 1967.

What the Swedish Butler Saw

An early 1970s reference is the title of the film What the Swedish Butler Saw, also known as Champagnegalopp, a Swedish film from 1975 directed by Vernon P. Becker. The story is based on the Victorian anonymous novel The Way of a Man with a Maid. This sex comedy, in English known as What the Swedish Butler Saw or Confessions of a Swedish Butler, the film starred Ole Søltoft and Diana Dors.

Peepint Gom

As of the 2000s, the expression What the Butler Saw has functioned as a byword for voyeurism in general, much like peeping tom before it.

A lovely surprise. I am spinning at a party, so it seems. Dear me.


Introducing Japanese photographer Manabu Yamanaka

flesh_manabu_yamanaka_72b by bobinke


Manabu Yamanaka is a Japanese contemporary artist. He lives and works in Tokyo, was born in Hyogo, Japan, in 1959. His photographs have been exhibited throughout Europe and North America.

His exhibition, “Gyahtei,”[1] a Buddhist term meaning “great age,” consisting of a series of black and white photographs of old people brought him to international attention.

He also did the cover art to Coin Locker Babies[2].

What the Butler Saw in Düsseldorf

The butler visited Diana und Actaeon – Der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit with a fellow butler and a maid.

He was thrilled to see Étant donnés[1] by Marcel Duchamp. And he did not realize it also looked like this[2]. He saw the famous metal doll sculpture[3] by Hans Bellmer and Bad Boy by Eric Fischl. He saw the most beautiful penis in post-war photography, yes he meant the Robert Mapplethorpe one[4].

He saw and liked photographs[5] of the Linley Sambourne collection, paintings by French figuratist Jean Rustin[6], paintings by Michael Kirkham[7], his first viewing of the fauvist Erich Heckel[8], Phryne[9] by French academic cult painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, waxworks by Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere[10], and paintings by Roland Delcol[11].

The butler was also very much taken by Johannes Hüppi[12]; his first viewing of his fave John Currin[13]; his first real Félix Vallotton; and a Lisa Yuskavage[14]. But not that one.

Butler wants you to know that the works he pointed to are for reference only and may not correspond to the works at the exhibition. He also wants you to know that some of the links may be NSFW.

Bettie Page (1923 – 2008)

Bettie Page, Bizarre nr. 14

If your interest goes just a little bit beyond vanilla sex, you’ve probably come across Bettie Page.

Bettie Page (April 22, 1923December 11, 2008) was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos, taken by Irving Klaw.


American 2000s documentary


Bettie’s Punishment

The whole of her is Icon of Erotic Art #38.

I am the Dying Gaul

The Dying Gaul

I am the Dying Gaul

This is my death scene, I was not given a deathbed. I do not represent the most famous death scene. I am outdeathed by Jesus Christ who died on the cross and Jean-Paul Marat , both after me.

I seem to have been born in a culture of death, yet I was not given any last words. This fascination with death in Western culture. Why? Why so pervasive?

Why did Jane write A Death-Scene?

So I knew that he was dying-
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath, and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.

Why this fasicnation with crime scenes?

Why did Andy Warhol produce The Death and Disaster paintings?

And why is every sensationalist  corner of video-libraries around the world filled with copies of Faces of Death?


Bonnie and Clyde

Why do we enjoy the slow motion death of Bonnie and Clyde and countles other movie death scenes?

Aristotle, had I known him, would have answered me:

Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.Aristotle via the Poetics.

Guy Bourdin @80

Charles Jourdan ad, 1976

French fashion and advertising photographer Guy Bourdin (19281991) would have celebrated his 80th birthday today had he not died of cancer 17 years ago.

I’m not sure when I first consciously came in to contact with his oeuvre, but I am pretty sure it was in the terra cognita that the internet has become by way of this page[1] from the site of music and culture connoisseur Phinn.

Today, a wide selection of his videos is available on YouTube[2]; a large number of his films can be found on Flickr and on the internet at large[3].

However, and although I cannot confirm this, I feel that I had seen the imagery of Bourdin in the pre-internet world, in a Dutch-language magazine called Avenue, which my parents bought during the seventies. It was The Netherlands’ and Flander’s first glossy, and ran from 1965 until 2002. Contributors have included Paul Huf, Eddy Posthuma de Boer, Ed van der Elsken and Inez van Lamsweerde. I distinctly seem to remember the Charles Jourdan shoe photo-ads Bourdin produced during that era. Not coincidentally, Avenue reminds me of that other glossy, Nova magazine, which I covered a couple of weeks ago[4].

To me, Bourdin can only be compared to his contemporary Helmut Newton (although admittedly I’ve also tentavily compared Ralph Gibson [5] to Bourdin) because in the words of Charlotte Cotton and Shelly Verthime he “emphasised fetishism, power relationships, and the potential for sexual violence, as well as the artificiality of the image, its gloss rather than its reality.”[6]

I’ve reported on Bourdin many times, and I am glad that I saw his retrospective at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and was given as a present Luc Sante‘s first monograph on his work: Exhibit A: Guy Bourdin

You can find Bourdin’s work all over the net.

Avenue van A tot Zero

Can anyone ID the photograper of this cover image?

For something different here[7] is a photo of a cover from Avenue.

Gratuitous nudity #12

Strip-tease en erotiek

Dutch translation cover

Huguette Delorme

French original cover

Yesterday, I went to Tuf Tuf, a not-so-reputed second hand book store on the South of Antwerp, my neighbourhood. It’s a real drag to hunt for books there: not enough space, books not arranged alphabetially, battered copies. But sometimes gems are to be found, I picked up a copy of Midnight Movies there once. Aside from this, they specialize in erotica. I spotted two Georges Pichard books yesterday priced at €86 each. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the canonical Pichard here before, his work is super-relevant today, as the good people at have brought his ultra-pornographic vision to life.

Back to the subject at hand, me at Tuf Tuf yesterday. I bought Moderne Liefde, an anthology of short stories which previously appeared in Playboy Magazine (with a story by Borges, whose only hint at eroticism I’ve yet seen has been in his story Ulrica), Striptease en Erotiek[1] (a Dutch language translation of Strip-tease et érotisme[2]), De Leidraad (Le Lien) by Vanessa Duriès, and Erotiek by Francesco Alberoni.

Above, I’ve shown you the covers (above the translation I bought, below its original) of Strip-tease et érotisme, the actual object of this post.

Histoire et philosophie du strip-tease : Essai sur l’ érotisme au music-hall, as its full title reads,  was written by François des Aulnoyes, to my knowledge one of the very few books he’s written. The book deals with striptease, what makes it interesting is that it was published in 1957, strictly speaking a couple of years before the sexual revolution. The text is hogwash and very briefly invokes Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Émile Durkheim, Vilfredo Pareto and Freud, these are the only sources mentioned. Its historic overview also mentions Janine Jan and Anne Bruneau as 19th century predecessors to French striptease.

What makes the book interesting are the photographs by Roland Carré, see the cover shot of Huguette Delorme above. Like I said, the pre-sexual revolution mode, with all reference for example to pubic hair airbrushed away (this was the pre-Photoshop-age).

Following models are featured: Melody Bubbles, Clara Saint-Honoré, Sheiba Scott (very sexy), Vera Bell, Japanese model Yoko Tani, Flora Balmoral, Ketty Rogers, Luce Aubertin, Rita Renoir, Tony Teaser, Lola Stromboli, Sidonie Patin, Dodo d’Hambourg, Dora Bell, Magda (of the Concert Mayol), Kitty Tam-Tam, and Rita Cadillac.

Who was Roland Carré?  The only person I know who can answer that question is Au carrefour étrange.

Icon of Erotic Art #33

Fischl Eric bad_boy by m_orfeo0111

Bad Boy (1981) by Eric Fischl

Today is Icon of Erotic Art #33 day. Remember this series is handmade, I’m not pulling this out of a list. So it was with great pleasure that I was reminded Eric Fischl‘s Bad Boy painting[1].

Bad Boy (1981) depicts a young boy looking at and older woman shown in a provocative masturbatory (a beaver shot to be precise) pose on a bed, while the subject is surreptitiously slipping his hand into the woman’s purse and presumedly stealing its contents.

The painting unites eroticism and crime, between the two is a very strong link first explored by Sade and verbally juxtaposed by Jules Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly in Happiness in Crime, a short story first published in the 1874 collection Les Diaboliques. I hope to explore this connection later.

Bad Boy is a painting which provokes the imagination, an equal amount of events seem to be in the painting as outside of it.

I imagine the neighborhood outside the room depicted suburbian. I imagine her husband (she is married and sexually neglected) watering the garden in a David Hockney painting manner. Maybe her husband is taking a A Bigger Splash[2] in their pool. Or the same husband is entertaining his gay lover in Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)[3].

Since all figurative painting involving the human figure is narrative painting a number of questions can be raised:

What is the relationship between the older woman and the boy? Is he her son? Or is she barren? Is he a neighborhood boy who entered her house without her knowing? Is the woman aware that she is being stolen from and spied upon at the same time? Is it a game they play regularly and is the boy rewarded the money afterwards? Who is to tell?

What makes European erotic films of the seventies “euro chic” variety particularly interesting …

Giulio Romano 3


Monamour, fresco footage at :10

“I had never heard of Tinto Brass until the late 1970s when I read an interview he gave to Gideon Bachmann in The London Times (Wednesday, 3 August 1977, p. 13). His remarks sufficiently intrigued me to begin a decades-long search, a search that for many years turned up almost nothing apart from tantalizing articles in trade papers. Since the autumn of 2000, though, thanks to friends in Italy, on-line overseas shopping, and eBay, I’ve been able to locate a fair number of Brass’s creations. I had been expecting at least a few of his earlier films to be excellent, but I wasn’t expecting them to be quite as good as they actually turned out to be. –RJBuffalo, a pseudonym of Ranjit Sandhu

This I read in the early 2000s when I discovered the site, a site hosted at Yahoo/Geocities, of which the author says it was “deleted without notice or explanation. They deleted all my email messages too.” I believe him. Yahoo did the same to my site in 2004.

Last week, I found the same site, back online, now hosted under its own domain name,, a pleasure for the eye and the brain.

Brass is one of Jahsonic’s canonical filmmakers. Researching him today brought footage of Monamour, in which Marta visits a museum, I presume in Mantua and admires  scatological (see comment 1) frescoes by – again I presume – by Giulio Romano in – presuming further – the Palazzo del Te.

Giulio Romano

Palazzo del Te frescoes

Giulio Romano 2

Palazzo del Te fresco (detail)

As Sholem Stein has noted: “What makes European erotic films of the seventies “euro chic” variety particularly interesting is the fact that Europe has the scenery, and the best cinematic euro chic erotomaniacs (Tinto Brass, Just Jaeckin, etc…) have put it to use. There is a reason why Radley Metzger came to Europe in the seventies to film his softcore visual extravaganzas.”