Adorée Villany performed a kind of refined striptease that unveiled her body as an artwork.
Born in Rouen, she was completely self-taught as a performer. Alone in her bedroom, she performed little plays of her own composition, despite stern opposition from her mother and aunt.
She began performing nude dances in public around 1910, although it appears she posed nude for photographs as early as 1906.
She first captured the public attention with a Salome dance in which she not only performed the Dance of the Seven Veils but simultaneously spoke Salome’s final monologue from Oscar Wilde’s play.
She favoured classical, mythical, and Oriental themes because these provided greater opportunites to use daring costumes that generously revealed her flesh.
In 1909 she performed her one-act femme fatale play, La Panthere, in which the heroine, wearing a spotted leotard, performs a strange panther dance for the man she loves before strangling him.
Supplementing her repertoire with dances that interpreted paintings by contemporary artists, Villany performed throughout the capitals of Europe, but it was in Germany that she found her largest audience. Villany’s nude performances were attended largely by upper-class aesthetes and held in private homes or in spaces she rented for the purpose.
When the Munich police found out they prosecuted her for obscenity, but she was acquitted after a number of prominent artists spoke out in her defence. However, in 1913 a case brought by the French authorities saw her fined 200 francs for outraging public decency.
She responded to her persecution by publishing Tanz-Reform und Pseudo-Moral in which she argued that reform of dance was equivalent to reform of morality. Undaunted by condemnation of her as a narcissist and exhibitionist, she argued that to overcome a pervasive fear of the female body one had to gaze at it with the same seriousness that one applied to the contemplation of artworks.
She felt that being beautiful was a right and that the assertion of this right entailed displaying her own beauty, which in itself did not transgress any healthy idea of the good.
She included much of the sensational press coverage of her performances and trial in the book and made extensive, unprecedented use of photography to document her aesthetic and associate her work with “high art”.
Apparently she made some films of her dances, too, and in 1913, she took part in la revue en chemise at the Folies Bergères.
You could say that this lady was the original alt model. Way ahead of her time, she deserves our respect, love and gratitude. Over 100 years since it was taken, the photograph looks perfectly at home on this site, and I’d like to think Adoree Villany would be proud of its inclusion alongside her modern day successors and spiritual heirs such as the Suicide Girls and the internet-enabled models of today…like Amanda Jones for example.
Empire of Ecstasy
Dancer is Acquitted – New York Times
See full Amanda Jones set on Zivity