Imagine walking around New York City seeing your image everywhere–your sublime nudity associated with goddesses and every noble cause. You’re discovered by a photographer and soon every artist wants you, every filmmaker clamors for your presence on their movie set. Imagine you’re sixteen. Then imagine you’re looking out the window of an insane asylum on your fortieth birthday.
Audrey Munson known as Miss Manhattan, The American Venus and The Exposition Girl before the First World War was every artists’ muse. In New York City alone it is estimated that she is the model for 22 statues. Three fourths of the statuary at the Panama Pacific International Exposition (World’s Fair in San Fransisco) was inspired by her likeness.
But then it all went terribly wrong. Most modern girls dream of being discovered, of someone noticing their intrinsic worth or at the very least finding them pretty. A breathless ten year bloom, an extravagant celebration of a single girl’s ability to inspire a generation of sculptors to transcend mere sexual desire and rise to something more noble ends with a killing frost.
Audrey gave herself to the ages but one man broke the spell. He murdered his wife to be with Venus. He hung himself before the electric chair could be readied. The slow creep of autumn when bits of yourself fall away at least gives you momentary, bittersweet pleasures–but killing frosts come unexpectedly when fruit is at its very fullness.
The statues then mock you. The artists feel your taint and want nothing to do with you. Many years pass suffering the icy loneliness of lost fame and with the first grey hairs at your temple you are put in a room like a box to remember the far away city of your youth.
Thanks to http://mbracedefreak.wordpress.com/ for introducing me to Audrey!
8 responses to “The American Venus”
wow is right! Have a great end of the weekend!
You really have an incredible blog. I love the way you write about The Gilded Age. I’m trying to figure out how to get email notifications of your posts – I worry about missing one. Really good stuff!
What a wonderful way to start the day. Thanks, Kate, for the compliment! I’m having so much fun with it. It’s always great to know it makes someone else happy as well.
All the best to you!
This is one of my fav posts here, Adrienne. Both for the intrigue you set up in the intro and the writing. Oh, the pity, the ache of finding yourself past your bloom with the hairs graying. A powerful reminder we are but a mist. At least our words can outlive us.
One of the very best things about writing is the gift you give to the next generation of your family. Even the most mundane notes and diaries of a long gone aunt or cousin discovered connects one to the magic of heritage.
Thanks for the compliments, Diana!
All the best~
You’ve no idea how your reply hits home. I’ve been enthralled by a recent story on This American Life. Rich layers. Tied in with my race series and the whole mysterious, common-sensical, wonderful thing called heritage. We’ll see how I use the story.
I love This American Life though I hardly get to listen to it here up in the country.