September Morn

September Morn  is a 1912 painting by the French artist Paul Chabas, who specialised in paintings of naked or scantily dressed young girls provocatively posed in isolated surroundings. September Morn  gained an initial notoriety in America and played a significant role in the evolution of the American pin-up girl tradition. It was gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1957 by one of their most generous befactors. It was last on public display in 1971 and is now (presumably) in storage in their reserve collection. As far as we know, no museum or gallery today exhibits Chabas' work. It has never been disputed (except perhaps by a group of Wikipedia editors) that the girl depicted in September Morn  is  a juvenile. It was described in exactly those terms at its premiere by the respected French critic Thiébault-Sisson. Chabas himself said that she was sixteen years old when he began posing her. If the plausible 1937 Fresno Bee  scoop that the girl was the French actress Suzanne Delvé is true, then she would have been around eighteen years old when Chabas first began this painting.   In Chabas' time, his paintings were taken to evoke youthful wholesomeness. Today they are routinely cited as pedophile fantasy: illustrated right is his 1905 treatment of the same theme,  Au crépuscule,  where the girl is plainly still a child.


Wikipedia's Featured Pictures showcases Wikipedia's finest images. They must be of high technical quality and contribute significantly to the educational value of the articles they appear in. The image above left was nominated for Featured Picture status by Chris Woodrich. It comes from the Metropolitan Museum's website itself.  The Met might well have had no other suitable image given that the painting has been in storage since 1971. Whatever its merits as a scholastic resource might be, it's clear that the image is not a good one of the painting, as can be judged by the one provided by Citizendium, Wikipedia's competitor.

Woodrich defended the image by claiming that it probably represented the state of the painting after forty years in storage, an absurd suggestion made more comical by his pompous edit:

...that quote [noting the dominant grey tones in the image] is from 1912. A painting can be pretty heavily damaged in that time, especially if its been in storage for most (if not all) of the past 40 years. For someone who claims a knowledge of art history and the fine arts, claiming otherwise is a rookie mistake.

The "someone" incidentally was not Coat. It was another editor opposing the nomination who first noticed how poor this image was and whose edit Woodrich was addressing here. This editor, more conciliatory than Coat, pleaded with Woodrich not to feature this particular image when there were so many others more worthy. Woodrich likwise brushed her reservations aside, as he did Coat's.

In connection with Au crépuscule, if Suzanne Delvé had posed for that as well then she would have been around thirteen years old at the time the painting was exhibited and, in those days, still a child as portrayed in the painting. Chabas made a point of observing he used a different model for the girl's head in September Morn. It would be interesting to establish Delvé's looks as a young girl. Coat thought it significant that her first film was titled La belle aux cheveux d'or (1916), i.e. Goldilocks, but was unable to locate a print of the film. Delvé herself claimed that she was ruined by posing for September Morn. If in fact she was signalling the earlier work and she was recognisable from it, then that might well have been so. Delvé  died in 1986 and Coat tried to contact her estate, with a view to offering them an option on Suzanne's story, but to no avail. Au crépuscule  is now apparently located at the French embassy in Vienna.