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Residenz-Atelier / Albin Kobé (1884–1935)
Half nude
Austria, Vienna, c. 1928
Gelatin silver print, toned, mounted on brown cardboard, 15,9 x 21,3 cm

Albin Kobé (also Cobé) was born in Carinthia, Austria. After his training at the studios of Hermann Heydenhauss in Vienna and Hugo Erfurth in Dresden, he became the managing director of the Residenz-Atelier. This portrait studio, residing at the Viennese Fleischmarkt since 1914, started to produce nude photography in the twenties. By doing so, it followed the trends of its time that can be seen in the context of various influences: The new dance movement in Vienna, reformatory nudism and the rise of of pictorial magazines that contained glamorous photographs of stars and starlets from the world of dance, theatre, film and revue (mostly as part of gossip stories or articles on fashion and modern lifestyle.)

Studio Manassé in Vienna, founded by the Hungarian couple Olga and Adorján Wlassics, became the leading photo studio for glamour photography and Kobés half-nude on the left shows its stylistic influence. The range of images by studio Manassé visualises a catalogue of clichés: The female as vamp, diva, innocent angel, doll or as a fairy-tale figure are the predominant roles that were also combined with each other. These clichés often appear quite blunt and straightforward, with a clever usage of lighting and models in typical poses, equipped with props such as bows, veils, slippers or cigarettes.

The image shows a half-nude that complies with the ideal of a sensuous woman, who effectively can’t elude her own eroticism – but her seemingly absent-minded touch of the neck goes beyond the pleasure of experiencing her own body; the mannered gesture of the other hand proves that she’s addressing a (male) viewer. A prominent detail of this image is her axillary hair that has not been covered up or retouched, contrary to the customary procedures at the Studio Manassé. Deviations in the depiction of beauty ideas should not be seen as a critique of predominant gender roles, but as inherent inconsistencies.

Marie Röbl, © WestLicht

Lit.: Monika Faber, Die Frau, wie du sie willst. Glamour, Kult und korrigierte Körper. Atelier Manassé 1922–1938, Vienna/Munich 1999, p. 77 (similar ).