31.8 by 20.3 cm.
ProvenancePrivate collection, Paris
Jane Roberts Fine Art, Paris
Somm is best known for his watercolor depictions of leisurely life in Paris and more particularly its cabarets. Somm also excelled in portraying women often dressed in the latest fashion. The watercolor in hand, which shows a female circus ringmaster performing with her male puppets, is reminiscent of the adult marionette show that Somm created in 1887 for the Chat noir. Beyond its humorous tone and casual circus setting, this work also reflects Somm’s own views on society and especially the threatening modern women, a theme that remained central to his art. By reducing the scale of the men, Somm emphasizes the woman’s domination over them, and her power to turn them into toys. In fact, this work is a metaphor of the “Femme Fatale,” and functions as a warning of the dangers behind the burgeoning women’s rights movement in Paris. Empowered women would only torment and control men. Somm’s apprehension coincided with a very active period in the history of women’s political emancipation. The 1880’s have been called the epoch of “suffragist activism” and it was during that decade that the first feminist movements emerged in France to demand the right to vote.