Frank Dobson

Charnaux Venus


Not on display

Frank Dobson 1888–1963
Plaster, fabric and plywood
Object: 1700 × 500 × 400 mm
Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983

Catalogue entry

T03719 Charnaux Venus 1933–4

Composition and plywood in two pieces, painted
67 × 19 3/4 × 15 3/4 (1700 × 500 × 400)
Inscribed on base ‘Charnaux’ (twice)
Transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum 1983
Prov: Commissioned from the artist by C. Douglas Stephenson on behalf of the Charnaux Patent Corset Co. Ltd., and given by him to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1934 (A. 24–1934)
Exh: Thirties, British Art and Design before the War, Hayward Gallery, October 1979–January 1980 (21.9, repr., as ‘Charnaux Corsets display figure’)
Lit: P.Q., ‘Art and Commerce-a New Departure’, Architectural Review, LXXIII, May 1933, pp. 210–11. Also repr: Eric G. Underwood, A Short History of English Sculpture, 1933 (plaster, repr. as frontispiece)

The firm of Charnaux Patent Corsets commissioned a ‘Venus’ from Dobson in 1933, and a photograph published in the same year shows him finishing the plaster (Eric G. Underwood, op.cit.). This plaster differs in pose only slightly from the Tate Gallery sculpture, although in the photograph the pedestal is not completed. It was later called the ‘Manresa’ Venus (after the street in Chelsea where Dobson lived), and was lent to his memorial exhibition in 1966 by C. Douglas Stephenson. Stephenson gave the version made in composition and plywood to the Bethnal Green Museum in 1934, where it was displayed in the costume section, before being transferred to the Tate Gallery.

The double page in the Architectural Review of 1933 cited above reproduces Dobson's plaster model and praises the Charnaux Company for asking a sculptor to design a lay figure ‘to show off dresses, corsets and stockings’. Evidently this particular sculpture was not used commercially as it was immediately given to the Bethnal Green Museum, but there may have been other casts which were used in shop windows. The Architectural Review also reproduces four designs by Dobson for panels ‘depicting types of elegance throughout the ages, which are to serve as its [the sculpture's] complement and setting ... from a charming Etruscan virgin ... to the voluptuous graces of a Boucher nymph’.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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