Introducing the Nude

Introducing the Nude

"The papers spoke very well of my works, in fact better than I would have thought they would, as I was a foreigner. However, harsh observations were made insofar as the exposed nudity was concerned: . . . I was in fact the first to have risked exhibiting nude figures in America, in Boston in particular. I had removed the veil of chastity and purity from Puritanism."
Mille.Yvonne and Locke-Ober Cafe
Installed at fashionable Locke-Ober’s Café in 1885-86, Tommaso Juglaris’s vivacious, non-narrative Mlle. Yvonne
made the nude an undeniable presence in Boston civic life, however staid the city’s morals remained

Whatever disappointment he may have felt over the Michigan Capitol commission, Juglaris continued to blaze new trails in Boston. He took particular pride in introducing the nude in Boston, a city famous for its prudery.

Ernest Longfellow
Artist and poet’s son Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow lobbied for nude modeling at Boston's Museum School.

In 1848, Boston had been one of the stops on the national tour of Hiram Powers's famous female nude statue, The Greek Slave. But sculpted in white marble, which disarmed its sensuality, and further veiled in moral narrative tacitly condemning the rapacity of infidel Turkish captors who would enslave a Christian woman dangling a cross, Powers’s work could be exhibited on the Boston Commons with moral impunity. Nevertheless, three decades later and only four years before Juglaris’s arrival in Boston, the city's fine arts museum felt obliged to add fig leaves to the plaster casts of the classical statuary gracing its galleries. Moreover, in 1880-81, when artist and famous poet’s son Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow sought authorization from trustees for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and its attached school to lead a class in drawing from the nude, permission was but reluctantly granted and strictly conditional: only male models could be engaged and all nude sessions had to be conducted behind locked doors to avoid publicity and attendant notoriety.

Automedon Painting
Automedon with the Horses of Achilles, by Georges Henri Regnault. Boston Museum students battled five years (1885-1890) to make Regnault’s painting, displaying a supple male nude, part of the museum’s collection

Essentially, Juglaris arrived in Boston at a cultural tipping point. In October 1880, most likely before Longfellow approached the museum trustees about drawing from the nude, Juglaris was invited to exhibit his two Paris Salon paintings, The Invasion and Paolo Veronese in Venice, at Venice as part of a larger exhibition devoted to "Living American Artists." As Juglaris notes in his memoir, both paintings were hung high over a doorway. But the nudity of the male and female figures in The Invasion was not obscured. As Juglaris recounts: "The papers spoke very well of my works, in fact, far better than I would have thought they would, as I was a foreigner. However, harsh observations were made insofar as the exposed nudity was concerned... I was in fact the first to have risked exhibiting nude figures in America, in Boston in particular. I had removed the veil of chastity and purity from Puritanism. They forgave me because I was a foreigner, but hard things were said to the [organizing] committee and the [museum's] administrators."

Significantly, when not long thereafter in 1882 Juglaris entered a competition for a teaching post with the "Boston Academy of Art," presumably the art study program of the Massachusetts Normal Schools, he was one of seventeen "contestants" who was called upon to "do a large life-size drawing indicating the first of all the action of the bones, then the movement of the principal muscles and lastly, finish it with charcoal in the space of ten or twelve hours." Yet, as Juglaris underscores in his memoir, the model provided for the competition was male with only his upper torso exposed: anything more would have been too indiscreet for still-prevailing Boston mores.

However, no doubt helped along by social barriers that Juglaris had already breached, change was in the air. In 1885, art students at the Boston Museum School launched what turned out to be a five-year campaign for the purchase of a controversial, narrative painting by French artist Georges Henri Regnault, Automedon with the Horses of Achilles. It depicts the well-muscled, nude figure of Automedon grasping with outstretched arm the bridle of one of Achille’s horses. Meantime, either in 1885 or 1886 Juglaris made the nude a public reality and permanent fixture of Boston life by completing a full-length portrait of a very statuesque woman for installation in the Men's Bar at Locke-Ober's, a popular restaurant catering to the city's elite just off the Boston Commons. Part of a wave of "saloon nudes" by such European artists as Jules Lefebvre and Adolphe Bouguereau, Juglaris's Mlle. Yvonne--as the painting was called--grew as a Boston legend even as the shock of her nudity faded.

Theater of the nude painting
Giovanni Battista Biscarra, La Scuola serale del Nudo all'Accademia
(Evening School of the Nude at the Academy), Accademia Albertina, Turin.
Juglaris helped design a similar amphitheater for nude studies at the "Boston's Museum School"

For the next 125 years, Mlle. Yvonne remained on display as a veritable landmark. Exciting attention and comment for decades, the Juglaris painting emerged as a tourist attraction in in its own right. It became customary to drape her frame with black crepe whenever Harvard lost to Yale in their annual football match. In the late 1940s Holiday magazine published a photo of bowler-hated businessmen nonchalantly lunching in front of Mlle. Yvonne. Soon after the Boston Sunday Herald archly described Juglaris as an artist “with a flair for figure painting that is stunningly apparent." During the 1980s Locke-Ober patrons organized the Mlle. Yvonne Club. Members loyally sported red fancy dress suspenders emblazoned with double images of Juglaris's voluptuous lady.

In his own role as art teacher, Juglaris continued to do his best to encourage and foster the study of the nude which he regarded as foundational for learning how to skillfully draw any human figure, dressed or undressed. As early as 1881-82, when the Boston Art Cub was contemplating a new clubhouse on Newberry Street in Back Bay, Juglaris was consulted on the appropriate design of an amphitheater for life drawing classes, based on his own experiences with art schools and "theaters of the nude" in Europe, beginning at Turin's Accademia Albertina. During his years as resident instructor at the Boston Art Club, Juglaris had occasion to make use of the amphitheater for classes, employing semi-nude or nude models. Not surprisingly, when fellow Boston artists gathered to honor Juglaris's contribution to the city's art life, each table was decorated with a nude figure as a centerpiece.