Ebony and Ivory
F. Holland Day
(American, Norwood, Massachusetts 1864–1933 Norwood, Massachusetts)
18.3 x 20.0 cm (7 3/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
Not on view
Although masked in the guise of exoticism or allegory, Day’s male figure studies—many of them nudes—have an undeniable element of eroticism. Although the artist’s sexuality was not discussed at the time, the esthete Day’s lifelong bachelorhood, his admiration and publication of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, his flamboyant manner, and his ongoing interest in photographing male nudes leads one to conclude that these studies were more than mere forays into the exotic or demonstrations of technical prowess in studio lighting and subtle platinum printing. The overt celebration of his model’s majestic countenance and muscled torso in An Ethiopian Chief and the exquisite rendering of dark skin against a black background in Ebony and Ivory point to a genuine delectation for his subject.