February 1, 2012

Nymph in a web: Parlor art.

Soapy Smith and the print on the wall

March 4, 2011

I have always found the decor inside Jeff Smith's Parlor in Skagway, Alaska of great interest. Each picture hung on the walls had meaning and where there for a reason. The ones on the west wall, behind the front bar are the most telling, patriotic propaganda during the Spanish-American War. Soapy was a very patriotic man, every known photograph of his saloons in Colorado and Alaska have American flags and red, white, and blue bunting. In Skagway the various pictures behind the bar changed with each photo session. Surely they served Soapy's end of signing up volunteers for his private army, the Skaguay Military Company. But what about the pictures on the side and back walls? Was there any meaning in them, or were they simply hung for the purpose of decor?

One framed picture has been of interest to me, and that is the one that hung on the east wall, opposite the front bar wall. In the photograph above you can see it directly behind Soapy's head. The details are lacking but it appeared to me to be some nudes, which naturally interested me even more. I searched and compared thousands of artworks in online art shops hoping to find a match but could not. I had pretty much given up, thinking that the photograph perhaps was showing shadow and light glare and what I perceived as a nude, was in reality, a shadow streak or light reflection in the frame glass.

Saloon nude?

The other day I stumbled, completely by accident, onto the painting and today I am happy to publish that find, thanks to eBay. One day while searching through my daily eBay saved searches I came across a postcard of what appeared to look like a typical saloon painting of a reclining nude female. In fact, it was Russian art from the 1890s. I love saloon nudes so I noted that the postcard was in the category of "risque art." There are over 10,000 works to look at and thus far I have found nearly 60 pieces that look very much like saloon nudes, much like the one just above.

As I was looking through the thousands of "risque" works I landed on one that immediately looked familiar. It did not take but a second to realize that I had found the missing artwork I had been searching for.

Nymph in a Web
by Le Quesue

"Welcome to my parlor," said the spider to the fly.

I found the painting but the information about it is sketchy. The painting is either called Nude Nymph in Net or Nude Nymph in Spider Web, by Russian artist Le Quesue or Le Queysen. This information comes from the two eBay dealers who are selling the postcard copies of the print. I used every bit of information they had and could not find anything about the artist or the painting online. Is it pure coincidence that the painting shows victims caught in a web, just as victims to Soapy's swindles were caught? Perhaps someone who knows the answers to this mysterious painting and artist can help?

1886: Jefferson Randolph Smith II and Mary Eva Noonan exchange wedding vows.

Jeff Smith


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