La Reine Masquée de Mai

by angeliska on May 1, 2009

A belated May day wish is better than none-
I wished so much today to be dancing around
a Maypole, garlanded in roses and festooned with flowers!
Perhaps tomorrow?

I wouldn’t mind swinging in the forest in frills and very high heels, neither.

Or to be crowned the Queen of May, just for a month (or even a day..)

ca. 1926 – Two models posed amid trees and flowers,
wearing masks by the Polish illustrator and painter, W.T. Benda:
Marion Morehouse, left, seated on the ground,
wearing a bouffant dress in white organdy and chiffon;
Helen Lyons, standing with parasol in hand,
wearing a long sleeve dress in printed chiffon by Kargere.
This is one of my favorite images- and I have long loved
the illustration and mask-making of Mr. Wladyslaw Theodor Benda.

Awhile ago I came across the shoot that Tim Walker
did for Vogue Italia entitled Fairy Time that was inspired
by Benda’s work, and the strange concept of having
incredibly beautiful models transformed into living
mannequins by these eerily perfect and utterly immobile masks.
I’ve always been captivated by the original images,
and I like what Walker’s done with the idea-
the evil queens and princesses turned to stone.

You can see the whole spread at Foto Decadent
be sure to peer at the first two there, with the lopped heads
and apple trees! Obviously, they are my favorites.

I’m not sure where this one came from- but I adore it.
[UPDATE! – photo by Umbo (Otto Umbehr) Thank you, April!]
Look at them kissing! So tender, for wax and plaster.
I am always wishing to stumble upon one of these 1920’s
heads to hang my hats on. I always imagine the abandoned
department stores after the war full of them, glassy eyed
and smiling. So many just tossed in the garbage- I mourn
for them as if they lived! I seem to recall seeing a short film
a while back, about a family of those mannequins living
in a ruined building- it was made using stop-motion animation..
Is that ringing any bells? I’d love to see it again.


i angeliska. i like this as well. i’ve been fascinated by the look in the eye of manequins. i’ve photogrph them as people in places that i find them. not just manequins, but also statues. i did that at the vatican. i photogrphed about 20 busts of people that lived 2000 years ago. these were stone sculptures that were looking at the person that looked at them in the eyes. there were amazing.
i may put it together in a piece. take care, jose

by jose fernandes on May 1, 2009 at 11:27 pm. Reply #

These are so amazing. I love the lady hugging the scarecrow!

by Frannie Brown on May 2, 2009 at 10:03 am. Reply #

Your choice of words and photos always entertain me.

by Sue on May 4, 2009 at 6:40 pm. Reply #

I had seen the kissing mannequins many years ago in a Bauhaus photography book checked out from a university library. Isn’t it dreamy? The photographer’s name is Umbo (Otto Umbehr). I wasn’t able to pluck his name out of my cobweb-filled mind, so a little sleuthing was in order.

by april on May 4, 2009 at 9:54 pm. Reply #

that twilight zone episode,
the mannequins in the department
maybe it was a dream.

by c h a r i t y on May 5, 2009 at 12:27 pm. Reply #

wonderful..the clothes from the photo shoot are amazing, there is something so alluring about mixing amber/mustard and gray..

by b on May 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm. Reply #

Goodness! I have worked so many years in the field of mask-making, yet somehow I had not come across Benda’s work. Thank you so much for your post. Interesting, the photos have a very similar eerie, fairytale quality I hope to capture in a mask photoshoot I’ve been designing. So it will be very good to be able to use those images as a reference!

by Monica of the Masks on May 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm. Reply #

Extremely late to the party, but the film you were thinking of is called “Club Of The Laid Off”, or “Klub Odložených”, by Jiří Bárta (1989)

by Alexandra on August 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm. Reply #

Thank you, Alexandra! It’s never too late to arrive at this party. I’m so happy to get to see that amazing film again! You are wonderful.

by Angeliska on August 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm. Reply #


by Beltane Fire – Pink Moon « Angeliska Gazette on May 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm. Reply #


by Beltane Vivification « Angeliska Gazette on May 1, 2014 at 4:32 pm. Reply #

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