Selling Sex

Great Attraction at the Franklin Hall! Philadelphia: United States Steam-Power Job Printing Establishment, 1848. (McAllister Collection)

PlaceholderOne of the most popular forms of male entertainment during the 1840s, tableaux vivants – also called “living statues” and “model artist” displays – featured women (and sometimes men) in sheer body suits or completely naked. After standing still for several minutes, striking poses based on “high art” themes from the Bible and classics, models would shift poses slightly, thus revealing more flesh. The playbill for this show at Franklin Hall employs several references to high culture: the producer is “Professor” Pesch from Europe, and the scenes include Romulus and Remus, the Judgment of Paris, and the Three Graces. Slightly more suggestive are the Rejected Lover, Mars and Venus, and Sampson in Chains.