In a few lines we will concentrate on the theme of the cat-woman and the bad reputation she enjoys from about 1000 AD. First, however, we would like to point out that theanimalier, in versions of skins wrapped around the body or thrown over the cuirass, spotted coats, headdresses or even stockings worked in imitation of the tiger’s fleece, can be found in the wall, pictorial, mosaic and sculptural representations that portray men of transversal power by age and cultural tradition for tens of thousands of years and that no one has ever even vaguely thought of stigmatizing. We do not intend to tackle the usual complaint about sexism and we are not one of those who see traces of it everywhere; however, you will admit that for women the display of the spotted is not without sexual and aggressive connotations even now, at the dawn of 2021.

MEISEL TREND V7_6

The woman in feral features, a fascinating femme fatale as well as an attractive sex kitten, has not lost her value as a danger even today. Here the top models Karen Elson and Jessica Stam in Steven Meisel’s “Trendspotting” service, Vogue Italia, July 2004.

For men, however, it has always been another matter: as a fetish and a sign of domination, the spots of felines or the fleece of fast and powerful animals on them have never aroused astonishment; to the limit, the watercolor of those eighteenth-century brindle “gentleman’s” stockings that we happened upon some time ago will have made the other courtiers smile a little for their eccentricity. For women, the appearance to felines, which Egypt embodied in the goddess Bastet and her devoted, close relatives of the Maenads and the Bacchantes, was on the contrary an infinite source of trouble starting from the affirmation of Christianity and say, since the medieval Inquisition’s takeover in the 12th century, of its goal of eradicating heresy and old “pagan cults” by infamous means. Then, of course, in the following centuries some aristocrats had delighted in disguising themselves as the goddess of Olympus and being portrayed by fashionable painters in spotted skins (Portrait of Madame de Maison-Rouge in the guise of Diana, 1756, by Jean-Marc Nattier); but, in fact, it was a rich noblewoman who did cosplay, perhaps a relative of the owner of an enchanting polonaise in leopard-print silk, embroidered with roses, which was exhibited at the Metropolitan for the exhibition Wild: Fashion Untamed, which ended in March 2005. In short, nothing really reprehensible, as indeed in the “leopard motif” borders following Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. In general, we would say that until the twentieth century the animalier was the prerogative of kings, nobles, leaders and wealthy people, because if printed silks and good quality leathers cost now, imagine yourself then.

(Keep it going)

Read the full article in the January issue of Vogue Italia, on newsstands from 7 January