19 August 2013

Mystery Woman

So much is learned about a person by looking at their face. But what do you do if a persons' face is hidden?

“Woman Seen from the Back” (ca. 1862) is an intriguing photograph by the French photographer Onésipe Aguado, which can be found at the Met. In the image, no hint of the woman’s face is given. Rather we see only the back of her head and shoulders.

And so we make assumptions based on what is shown. Her hair is dark and heavy, twisted into an elegant knot. Probably done with the help of a lady's maid. Her comb and matching large strand of beads along with her dress and silk shawl are fashionable and imply she is a woman of means. And a bared shoulder asks the viewer to look upon her as an object of desire. But still, what about her face? 

You wonder. Was her nose small or large? Were her eyes round or almond shaped? Were her lips thick or thin? What about her complexion? All of these pieces add to our visualization of a person, which in this case we can only guess. I’ve read that there’s another photo that shows her face but I almost don’t want to see it so I can keep the image I have conjured up in my mind. For as long as she remains with her back turned, she is forever a mystery woman whose identity is unknown.

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