These four marble figures charmingly epitomise an interest in genre subjects and leisure pursuits typical of the early years of the 20th Century. The growth of the middle classes in the period meant that a new emphasis was given to leisure time and swimming became popular. In pose and costume the present four figures echo the 'Bathing Beauties' found on tinted photographic postcards of the time. One of the figures is by Antonio Argenti who was well known for his genre marbles, infused with sweet sentiment and careful observation. Each figure records the daring new type of swimsuit, baring arms and legs and delineating the form. In 1907 the Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman had been arrested in the United States for wearing such a swimsuit during her "Underwater Ballerina" show in which she dived into a glass tank. However, notoriety did nothing to stop fashionable young women from donning these costumes, which, unlike previous swimming 'dresses', were made of woven fabric which clung closely to the body. As a group the four figures show the evolving style of the swimsuit in the 1910s. The figure with a metal rod in her hand wears a costume fashioned in two pieces with a belt at the waist, and is likely to be earliest. The girl leaning on a paddle wears the most daring suit of all, cut low at the bodice. As well as carefully depicting costume the sculptors have given their subjects attributes to reference boating, fishing and beach games. For the collector, the figures delightfully recalled a day at the beach.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori Italiani, vol. 1, Turin, 2003, pp. 33-4 & 200
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