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Monday, November 30, 2009

Harlequin cover art exhibit takes Vegas

The Los Angeles Times had a great piece on the Harlequin cover art exhibit that I dumbly missed while it was in New York. Now it's in Vegas. We even learn Fabio's last name! (Lanzoni)

Inside a small room is a chronology of representations of desire.

The earliest covers draw from film noir and are rife with -- in hindsight -- unintentional comedy.

"Virgin With Butterflies" (1949) shows a brunet in thigh-high stockings encircled by five male heads sprouting butterfly wings. "Men Cast a Net for Her," the cover promises.

A decade later, women apparently dreamed of romance amid danger. In 1959's "The Yellow Snake" -- one of Semmelhack's favorite covers -- a gun-wielding, professorial man and a blond woman in pearls gasp at (as the placard helpfully explains) an "overtly phallic snake."

As women gained financial and political power, the coverboys were portrayed more as playthings than saviors. By the '70s, they were waiting to whisk away their ladies in helicopters and Austin Healeys. By the '80s (the era of Harlequin's signature bodice-ripping romances), they were groveling before corseted damsels.

And it's curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, author of Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe cover below.

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