|La Poupée (The Doll), 1935|
Parts from several dismembered pubescent-sized dolls have been combined to create a four legged creature, all torso. Seen to represent a private obsession in response to the artist's lust after a young girl, Bellmer's La Poupée series - all depicting 'dolls' in various positions and erotic contortions - certainly seems to stem from a deep objectification of the female body and, an extension of this, a mentality of sexual violence. It is claimed they were taken as an open rejection of Nazi conformity.
Any 'body' that is present here is an object of desire. The doll is living for Bellmer and it comes alive partly in his photographing of it - the camera being a tool of possession. Through this process the doll becomes a suppository of fantasy, albeit a pederastic, masturbatory fantasy at that. Yet, brutal as it is, it hits right to the heart of Surrealism: the loading of an object with profound psychological, metaphysical meaning. The unconscious made visual.
This image is both portrait and still-life - the mirror further complicating the matter. Photography becomes a way of bringing the 'doll' to life. All is objectified by the camera (made into an object). A still-life then can begin to take on the nature of a portrait. Here it becomes all the more disturbing, in its deformed claustrophobic construction, for being a photograph. It is all too 'real'.
For Hans Bellmer each leg on this doll - the doll itself even - is a prosthetic. Of lust and desire, of a private fetish. It is an extension of his psyche.
We cannot see this image as Bellmer does. Nor do we want to.