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Northstar Gallery

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"Bomber Girls"


Sensuality in form and design of  WWII war bird nose art

WWII Bomber nose art

Glamerous Gal P-51 Mustang

Photo by Northstar Imaging

World War II bomber nose art is a powerful symbol that is as compelling today as in the trying years of the great world war. These images call us to understand their hold on us and their important contribution to the human experience. 

WWII Bomber nose art

Photo by Northstar Imaging

As the artist's  work on "Of Flesh and Stone" developed, he began to discover many very sensual images of beautiful young women depicted in the memorial art in the great cemeteries of the world. The use of the nude and certainly sensuous figures are linked to a long tradition in Western art celebrating the female in both secular and religious settings.  However, a very compelling question emerged around the significance of this particular art form in the cemetery. How is it that these very powerful images have come to offer solace at times of loss, what is the significance of the link between  Thantos and Eros in this very compelling art form? More recently, as I photographed classic automobiles, particularly their hood ornaments, I began to find very similar images. Additional research led to the discovery of similar themes around ship's figureheads and the nose art of WWII bombers. Is there a connection between the beautiful women adorning the historic cemeteries of the world, the cars of the privileged and the war planes of the Second World War? 

WWII Bomber nose art

Ever since the first sailing vessels were built, sailors have tried to ensure safe passage by attempting to pacify mysterious and unpredictable gods with symbols of faith. The ship's © Copyright Hood Ornaments & Mascots figurehead, a typical example of this tradition, took many forms over the centuries. Human figures first began to appear in the late 1770s, and shortly thereafter everything from statesmen to Indians appeared on the fronts of ships. Greek figures and figures dressed in medieval uniforms and battle dress were popular as well. It wasn't long before beautiful© Copyright Northstar Gallery female figures began to appear. They were used on a great number of commercial ships after 1800, and often ship owners' wives served as models. This classic pose of the female goddess leaning into the wind began to show up in the form of automobile hood ornaments in the early 1920s. One of the defining images was that of Rolls Royce's "Spirit of Ecstasy" a winged goddess on the bow of the new land ships leaning into both the wind and the unknown and promising future.

Spirit of Ecstacy - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Spirit of Ecstasy

Photo by Northstar Imaging

In the 1920's and 1930's, people experienced great passion and excitement as a result of their  new love affair with the automobile. During this heady period, cars proudly 1933 Plymouth Coupe - © Copyright Northstar Gallery displayed "Mascots" or "Hood Ornaments" on the front of their vehicles. These Mascots were genuine pieces of art that made a personal statement to the world. One of the most famous hood ornaments was the Rolls Royce "Spirit of Ecstasy" designed by the English sculptor, Charles Sykes in 1911. The popularity of  Hood Ornamentation continued through the 1940's with ever more diverse creations being added. A variety of Gods, Goddesses, Indians, Birds, Dogs, Lions,  Elephants and other winged icons added a personal touch  to the cars they adorned. Car  manufacturers got into the act by adding their own  line of Hood Art on production cars for the working man. The most common theme were the "Flying Ladies" often  very sensual and frequently erotic representations of the female form. In an additional juxtaposition ships, cars and airplane are usually experienced as having a female identity. The theme of sensuality emerges in many design elements, particularly in classic automobiles. The goddess not only serves as the hood ornament but is embodied in the graceful and sensual lines and form of the car itself. The winged angel to the left is from Steglieno Cemetery in Genova Italy. 


To view more images of classic automobile hood ornaments, click here.

Rene Lalique Mascot - Hood Ornament

Photo by Northstar Imaging

Chrysis by Rene Lalique above is a beautiful expression of the figurative art of the female form. Lalique produced some of the most desired and beautiful after market hood ornaments for the classic automobiles of the 20s and 30s. For more information on Lalique click here.



These same images again began appearing on World War II bombers and fighters. This genre of figurative art emerged in the form of "nose art" on thousands of bombers and fighter escorts flying missions over France, Germany, Africa and the Pacific. Nose art, perhaps modeled on the "Flying Ladies" served as the aviator's unique calling card and as personal escorts during missions of great danger and uncertainty. The Army Air Force attempted to ban and censor nose art on many occasions. Ultimately the power of the art prevailed for its value in boosting crew morale was unquestioned. 

The inspiration for many of the "Bomber Girls" was pin-up art, from magazines such as Esquire. George Petty was one of the first pin-up artists to find fame in “pin up art.” Petty began his career for Esquire in the late 1930s and moved on to a successful advertising career in 1942.

Petty was followed by a young Peruvian artist, named Alberto Vargas. Vargas signed his work Varga, and quickly achieved commercial success with his amazing lifelike and seductive paintings of beautiful young women. By the end of World War II the Varga pin-up was as popular as the pin-up photos of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. The Varga girls inspired much of the WWII "Bomber Girl" nose art in all theaters of the war. Pin-up art was so much a part of the the GI lifestyle that Glenn Miller added a song to his repertoire when he toured the war zones, “Peggy the Pin-Up Girl.”

Hal Olsen served as a mechanic while stationed on Tinian Island in the Pacific. Olsen, in spite of his hectic military schedule, was a prolific painter, painting over 100 pieces of nose art. Olsen was frequently paid $50.00 for a nose are commission by the crew. During the war he earned enough for a honeymoon and tuition to art school.

 Olsen recounts,

“Nose art for the crew was a personalized reference to a piece of military hardware. You are trusting your life to the plane to get you back safely. You have to go through enemy territory.… So nose art brought the crew together. It provided a signature for the unit. By putting a girl on a plane, the crews felt they were protected on their way out to bomb and patrol. It inspired the crews and gave them a sense of belonging to an organized team. The main purpose, I guess, was to inspire the crews to have faith they’d be coming back.”

Nose art also drew on some very old traditions. “My story really started 400 years ago, said Olsen. “Nose art isn’t new. The British man-of-wars had female figureheads and Norwegian and Swedish Viking ships had ornate mast heads carved out of wood.”

La Cherie by Hal Olsen

PB4Y-2 BuNo 59489 VPB-121 and VPB-106

Some of Olsen’s nose art paintings were modified, not by enemy bullets, but by the commanding officers of the unit. After a visit to the Pacific theater in 1944 by none other than Charles Lindbergh, some units began to censor their artists. The GIs, always looking for a way to circumvent the rules, came up with many ways to appease their commanding officers. Water based paint was a popular method of censoring artwork, but crews would used whatever they had on hand. Hal Olsen even remembers one crew using mud to temporarily clad their female mascot!

Bomber "nose art"

Photo by Northstar Imaging


WWII Bomber nose art


Nose art emerged as a defining element of the era, gracing  everything from war airplanes, to leather flight jackets, to the walls of barracks, huts and Officer and NCO Clubs across Europe and the Pacific. In some ways, "nose art" was indeed memorial art, for over half of the young men serving in bomber crews would be killed or captured during their 20 mission tours. 


How interesting it is to note that this art form ended with the terror of WWII, being replaced with less compelling and more politically correct imagery such as Donald Duck.

© Copyright finesse-fine-art.com




The Dragon and his Tail by Sarkis E. Bartigan

B-24J-190-CO 44-40973 43rd Bomb Group


WWII Bomber nose artThe females who cast their face into the wind as ship's figureheads, the "Flying Ladies" of classic automobiles, the women adorning WWII war birds and the beautiful ladies of the cemetery all serve a similar purpose. Each is an escort for a passage or transition into the unknown, offering comfort in the face of mortality and a promise of rebirth, continuity, renewal and salvation. 



WWII Bomber nose art


Carl Jung observes "A symbol always stands for something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. Symbols, moreover, are natural and spontaneous products. No genius has ever sat down with a pen or brush in  hand and invented a symbol. No one can take a more or less rational thought, reached as a logical conclusion or by deliberate intent, and than give itBomber "nose art" "symbolic form". There are many symbols, however, that are not individual but collective in their nature and origin. These are chiefly religious images. The believer assumes that they are of divine origin - that they have been revealed to man. The skeptic says flatly that they have been invented. Both are wrong. It is true, as the skeptic notes, that religious symbols and concepts have for centuries been the object of careful and quite conscious elaboration. It is Bomber "nose art"equally true, as the believer implies, that their origin is so far buried in the mystery of the past that they seem to have no human source. But they are in fact "collective representations," emanating from primeval dreams and creative fantasies. As such, these images are involuntary spontaneous manifestations and by no means intentional inventions."  15 The sensual images under consideration embody profound symbolic content from our "collective unconscious" and  may be some of the most significant and enduring  symbolic manifestations of the human experience.

Photos by Northstar Imaging

To understand the significance and origin of these symbols and the compelling themes they address, it is necessary to visit the role of the human form in classic art. 

The female form is frequently found adorning public buildings, squares, cathedrals, Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery museums and parks around the world. In Western tradition, the ability to master the female figure is often the mark that defines fine artistic  talent. Clark observes: "We remember that the nude is after all, the most serious of all subjects in art..." 9 Auguste Rodin observed "The human body is first and foremost a mirror to the soul and its greatest beauty comes from that". Similarly Walt Whitman offered: "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred. The image above is from Monumental Cemetery in Milan Italy.

1933 Plymouth Coupe "Goddess" - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

1933 Plymouth Coupe

Photo by Northstar Imaging


The above image is from a 1933 Plymouth Coupe and the image to the left is from a cemetery in Rome, both have similar classic origins. The French poet, Paul Valery, noted that "The nude is for the artist what love is for the poet" The nude has been a wellspring of artistic creativity in Rome - © Copyright Northstar GalleryEuropean art and has acted as the visual embodiment of ideas and views about that most constant of human concerns, love, both earthly and sacred. For the Ancient Greeks, the nude epitomized perfect physical beauty of a kind immune from the depredations of time; signified the imposition of order upon the caprices of nature; and symbolized the nobility of the human spirit. It was an art form usually reserved for representations of the deities,  while portraits of actual people were generally clothed. The images below are from Monumental Cemetery in Milan Italy. To view more images click here.                    

Photos by Northstar Imaging

Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar GalleryMonumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar GalleryMonumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar GalleryMonumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Photos by Northstar Imaging

Because of the great risks confronted by bomber pilots and mariners there is a connection to classical themes of "The Dance with Death" and "Death and the Maiden". In the Great Plague of 1348-50, a third of Europe's population is thought to have perished in the Black Death. The terrible suffering and mass graves gave rise to what the French called la danse macabre. Ecclesiastical Annals from Germany describe the dance as a kind of mania, characterized by Bacchantic leaps. At Aix-la-Chapelle in 1374, the dancers held hands to form circles and whirl around until they dropped. At even greater heights of frenzy, the first fell to the ground in epileptic convulsions, gasping for air and foaming at the mouth, until they could leap up to perform the strange contortions of the dance. 25


In the French tradition, the dance's legacy is found in 14th-century poetry, frescoes and woodcuts depicting representatives from every station of life, from pope to pauper, paired with ghostly doubles who have come to summon the living partner to the other world. Death, often personified with a sickle in hand for the harvest, came to represent the great leveler of all inequality.25 


- © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Monumental Cemetery - Milan

Photo by Northstar Imaging



The tradition did not end with the Middle Ages. Periodic outbursts of the plague in the 16th century sparked similar reactions, as shown in Hans Holbein's series of woodcuts on the Totentanz, executed in Basle (c.1523-26). Today, la danza de la muerte is still performed in Spain at festivals by single drummers with skeletal partners who circulate together around inside cavernous cathedrals.25


A Death and Maiden theme emerged from a  long mythological tradition. In Greek mythology the abduction of Persephone by Hades, god of Hell, is an Monumental Cemetery Milan early expression of the clash between Eros and Thanatos. The young goddess Persephone gathers flowers while accompanied by carefree nymphs. When Persephone saw a pretty narcissus, she picked it and at that moment, the ground opened and Hades came out of the underworld and abducted Persephone carrying her into his underworld.


Within the Death and the Maiden Theme, a dark bound between sexuality and death is explored. In this iconography, the young girl is not involved in “the dance of death” but enters into a sensual relationship with death, which becomes increasingly erotic as time passes. Despite the sensuality of this genre, it maintained a moralistic goal for it is intended to remind us that life is short as is the exquisite beauty of a woman. This theme becomes relevant to the mariners of the past, the bomber pilots of WW II and the titans of industry. In embracing the beautiful women adorning their vessels they embrace the risk of their journey and the inevitability of their own mortality.

1930 Cadillac V16 Imperial Limousine - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

1930 Cadillac V16 Imperial Limousine

Photo by Northstar Imaging

Niklaus Manuel Deutsch completed this work in 1517. It demonstrates the transition between the Dance of Death and the theme of Death and the Maiden. Here Death, as a rotting corpse, caresses his young lover, takes her by the hand, grasps her by the neck, kisses her as she guides his hand under her dress. As his young lover she welcomes deaths touch and attention. 24 (click on image to enlarge). Perhaps their is an element of the dance of death between the mariners and the aviators and their companion goddess escorting them during missions of great danger.. 


Death and the MaidenHans Baldung Grien completed this work in 1517. Here Death seizes a young girl by the hair preparing to force her to descend into the tomb dug at her feet. Death points toward the grave with his right hand. The girl, completely naked, does not resist. Her mouth is plaintive, her eyes are red and tears run down her cheeks; she understands the inevitability of her end. 24 


Edward Munch completed this engraving in 1894. Here, Death in the form of a skeleton suggests the victory of Love over Death as he is passionately embraced by the young girl. The beautiful girl is not dominated or intimidated by Death for she embraces death willingly and with great passion and intimacy. 24 




This color drawing depicting the theme of: Death Triumphant is by an anonymous artist in the 16th century. The work depicts Death with a bow and arrow, arms  outstretched in triumph over mankind. At his side strands a partially nude man and woman and at Death's feet lies humanity vanquished, including: clerics, laymen, artists, royalty, gentlemen, soldiers, and peasants.  24 


Many classical ideals were rediscovered during the Renaissance, when the general tenor of philosophy became humanist. Once again the nude became an embodiment of perfect beauty and an emblem of abstract concepts such as Beauty, Genius, Friendship, Truth and Sacred Love. 1

Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Monumental Cemetery - Milan

Photo by Northstar Imaging

The importance of the nude persisted through 17th century baroque art well into the 19th century, ... retaining its significance because of its connection with subjects of the highest cultural status, whether religious, allegorical or mythological. As such subjects tended to be favored more by aristocratic or ecclesiastical patrons. The popularity of the nude was geographically uneven. One was more likely to find nudes painted in Catholic countries, such as Italy or Flanders, or countries with a strong tradition of State patronage, such as France. 1 

For the female figure to be accepted in public places, including automobile mascots, the higher moral purpose of the work had to be convincing and beyond reproach. Cemeteries are sacred places, so work that might have been unacceptable in other settings were cast in a transcendent ambiance. Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery Much like the public buildings and cathedrals, formal cemeteries offered a legitimate venue for theSaint Peter's Cathedral, The Vatican, Rome - © Copyright Northstar Gallery expression of the inherent beauty and symbolism of the female form. Many of the famous sculptors whose works are in the Worlds greatest museums and private collections also have work in the Pere Lachaise, Stagleino, Novodevichye, Montparnasse, Monumental, Forrest Hills and other great cemeteries. The exquisite angel to the right is in Saint Peter's Caththedral in the Vatican and the image to the left is from Monumental Cemetery in Milan. Artists, who were often dependent on the commissions for memorial art, perhaps relished the opportunity to express,  their creative talents unfettered in such a noble cause. 


During the medieval era, the naked body often stood for temptation and sin. In Christian theology the emphasis was not upon physical beauty but upon the inevitability of the body’s decay and the shame in nakedness which came from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. 1


Much of this work was done in a time of social transition. In Paris the Cemetery Reform Movement introduced a new respect and reverence for the deceased as an alternative to the previous perspective of the corpse as refuge. 

Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Monumental Cemetery - Milan 

Photo by Northstar Imaging

As part of the cemetery reform movement, Pere Lachaise was privately developed and served as an alternative to the church cemetery for the wealthy of Paris. This private Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar Gallery ownership removed the control and influence of the church over the content of imagery and the expression of an unfettered  personal and artistic vision. The separation of municipal burial from church burial was an essential development for such creative expression to flourish. A final reality was that for health reasons, the reform movement prohibited mass burial and required individual graves, setting the stage for the increasing importance of individual memorial markers and monuments. For the middle class, commemorative tombs became a way to achieve and confirm social standing. 

Statuary expressing the female form brings together powerful forces of death and sensuality, the eternal link between Thanatos and Eros. This expression reached a high level during the romantic era of the early nineteenth century. In Romantic art, death became a metaphor not of loss, fear and horror but of love and desire. William Wordsworth explores this theme in his poem Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known. The sensuous female forms of these monuments make this association explicit. This of course has relevance for the Bomber nose art and its compelling role in the daily danger lived by the crews.

For the Romantics, death was an important theme. For them death was experienced as exquisite emotion and the ultimate expression of love. "To die loving you is better than life itself," wrote Alferd de Musset. The Romantic era was a period of "beautiful death" in which death was perceived as a refuge, a  release, a reward and a rebirth. Death was associated with rebirth, conception, birth and sexual Staglieno Cemetery Genova Italy expression. The transition from death to eternal life was seen as a rebirth and came to be symbolized by a release of sensual pleasure expressed by the "petite death". It is no accident that the expression of morning by the women in many of the works is indistinguishable from sexual ecstasy. 2  One of the best examples of this theme is The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini, 1650. Bernini's work is a representation of Saint Teresa of Avila's writings in which she reports: "It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the  following vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel......He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire....In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with SaintTeresa01.jpg (9286 bytes) it, and he left me completely afire with a great love of God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it - indeed a great share. So sweet are the colloquies of love which pass between the soul and God that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God, in His Goodness, to give him the same experience. Amen" 13   To the left is The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini, 1650.


   Friedhofs Engle

The moment of ecstasy corresponds t the self-annihilation spoken of by the mystics of the seventeenth century. Pierre de Berulle starts from the stage of "spiritual death" which the soul has to pass through during the "time of trials" in order to attain the "mystical marriage" with the Bridegroom. It is the Bridegroom who permeates the soul in the "abyss of greatness" and the "gulf of glory" in order to consummate the "spiritual marriage" Benoit de Canfield has written "the Bride of God (man's soul) "desires with all other creatures to be melted, liquefied, consumed, and annihilated." 16


In Bernini's Ludovica Albetoni, the believer is introduced into the Blessed Lady's bedroom and made a witness to her convulsions on the disordered bed. It is not merely a statue, but more like a living, gesticulating actress. In these examples, we see the sculptor's intent to create in the observer a mood of mysticism and ecstasy. 16 The sculpture thus becomes a mirror and indicator of the state of mind of the observer opening the way to salvation. 17


In the private chapel of Sanserero, Naples, is a fine example carved in 1750 by Genoese sculptor Francesco Queirolo. The work is of a  naked male figure, who is draped in a net from which he is extricating himself while being aided by an angel. The sculpture is an allegorical monument to Count Antonio Sangro who took holy vows after the death of his young wife. The sculpture shows Sangro throwing off the entangling net of worldly appearances including his worldly coverings and discovering Truth. The work is thought to symbolize the purity of spiritual deliverance achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit. Of special interest in this work is the sheer brilliance of the net, finely carved out of solid marble.18


One of the skills that was applauded in the eighteenth century was the ability to render drapery and some artists indulged themselves in technical brilliance. The drapery is never so glamorous as when , instead of concealing forms,  it hints at them, caressing them with the greatest of sensuality. The challenge was not only veil the body and face but to do so in a manner that enhanced the expressiveness and sensuousness of the body. One of the great examples of this work is Faith by Innocenzo. Spinazzi located in the Apse of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi, Florence. Spinazzi uses the traditional prompts of Faith the chalice and Bible, however he drapes the veil over her face beneath which we can discern an expression of mystical ecstasy where Faith reveals itself in an inward gaze, which is God-given and transcends the mere senses. In Modesty, another statue of a veiled woman by Antonio Corradini,   in the chapel of Sansevero, the figure is an allegory of the Virtue Modesty. Under her mourning veil she expresses grief, but the veil is so sheer as to be almost transparent; it unclothes rather than clothes her, bringing out the sensual quality of her body. 19

"The sculptors of the second half of the century were not slaves to doctrine. Before Canova, they sought chiefly to create pleasing images and they favored an iconography and style which celebrated the feminine charms that had a high place in the flirtatious society of this age when women were often treated like queens. Thus the mythological pretexts employed in the earlier part of the century acquired a new lease of life. The idea was no longer to borrow the trappings of pagan gods and goddesses, but to titillate with flirtatious, erotically suggestive scenes. Moreover, mythological motifs were in key with the period's growing reverence for Antiquity, through it sometimes seems as if they were merely an excuse for depicting delightfully sensual bodies in the nude. Psyche Abandoned, (Augustin Pajou 1790) for example, shows Psyche nude lamenting Cupid's disappearance; her flesh palpitates with distress; her despair gives her a languid pose which is not only touching but seductive." 20

Joseph Campbell states "Myths of the Great Goddess" teach compassion for all living beings. There you come to appreciate the real sanctity of the earth itself, because it is nut01.jpg (9999 bytes)the body of the Goddess.5 "And when you have a Goddess as the creator, it's her own body that is the universe. She is identical with the universe...She is the whole sphere of the life-enclosing heavens."6 Campbell goes on to state: "This is the an essential experience of any mystical realization. You die to your flesh and are born into your spirit. You identify yourself with the consciousness and life of which your body is but the vehicle. You die   to the vehicle and become identified in your consciousness with that  of which the vehicle is the carrier. That is the God." 7 Within the essential experience of birth and rebirth the female embodies the totality from conception to birth and renewal. As Mother Earth she embodies fertility and rebirth and out of death, the eternal renewal of life. The greater the beauty and perhaps the more sensuous, the more powerful the identity is of "Goddess as Mother Earth."   To the left is a "sarcophagus from second-century A.D. Thebes that reveals a symbolic connection with the archetypal Great Mother (the container of all life). The inside of the cover bears a portrait of the Egyptian goddess Nut; thus the goddess would "embrace" the body of the deceased."  14

1931 Cadillac - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

1931 Cadillac

Photo by Northstar Imaging

Similarly in some works the subjects are nude or are partially clothed and the works symbolize entry into heaven. The nude imagery of the human form expresses rebirth into heaven, as well as innocence and purity, leaving the fallen material world behind. The exquisite beauty of some of the figures depicted in this work may also be an expression of God’s perfect beauty with man being created in the image of God a theme that has been expressed for millennium.


As early as 2500 BC, Egyptians used statuary, for religious purposes, to capture the essence of the individual represented and as a medium to hold the soul after death. Much of these sculptured images were nude depicting the expected rebirth from temporal life into eternity in God’s presence.


Novodevichye Cemetery Moscow - © Copyright Northstar Gallery

Novadevechie Cemetery, Moscow

Photo by Northstar Imaging

It is interesting to note how these particular images differ from the anonymous female figures serving as surrogate mourners in much memorial art. Here the images are representations of the individual and as such are more naked than nude revealing a profound vulnerability and personal reality in their life like representations. Camille observes: "Naked one came into the world and naked one left it was a cliché' of the preachers, but this lack of clothing evinced a deeper shame,  going back to theEveTempted.jpg (8531 bytes) invention of death at the Fall in the Garden of Eden. For it had been only at the moment of original sin that Adam and Eve saw that they were naked and were ashamed." ;  It can be considered that nudity in which there is not shame, symbolizes innocence, the time of purity before the Fall as well as redemption after death. Hiram Powers sculpted Eve Tempted in 1843.Rock Creek Cemetery Washington DC - © Copyright Northstar Gallery Powers wanted to depict the innocence and complete absence of shame about her nudity immediately before the Fall. In Eve Tempted Eve is in metamorphosis, not yet ".. yielding to the seduction of the serpent, disobeying God's word, and tempting Adam to join her in disobedience representing ... the irrepressibility of humankind's sinful nature ". 12 


The Greek Slave also by Hiram Powers received unprecedented  acclaim GreekSlave.jpg (8405 bytes) in the nineteenth-century. Created in 1844, for fifteen years multiple version of this work were presented in traveling exhibitions including the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Hundred of thousands of people viewed the sculpture at a time of much prudishness in American society. 10 Comments in the press tended to deny the sculpture's sensual appeal insisting that "her nudity was clothed in morality". A poet writing in Knickerbocker Magazine offered: "Naked yet clothed with chastity, She stands and as a shield throws back the sun's hot rays, Her modest mien repels each vulgar gaze." The perspective represented by the Greek Slave affirms the capacity of the figure to be a powerful symbol of purity and innocence in the eye of the beholder. We begin to recognize how completely the value of these spiritual existences depends on the nudity of the figure and finding the tenuous but powerful balance between innocence and sensuality. Indeed the figure may be the only form which effectively expresses the important themes of rebirth, redemption and innocence essential to powerful memorial art.


Some argue that the sensuous, beautiful young women are the embodiment of death itself. The romantic notion "Sweet is death who comes as a lover" removes the sting of death and presents it as an experience to be fully embraced and welcomed.


It is possible that these exquisite young women adorning the cemetery, automobiles, ships and bombers, as some of the most beautiful among us, convey a sense of heightened status and prestige to the deceased, the pilot and the mariner? Forever present, forever young and forever beautiful they convey, vitality, passion and rejuvenation. It is conceivable that these figures eternally perform  a similar role to their mortal counterparts, serving as beautiful trophies at the side of successful, powerful and adventurous men.


Cemeteries are places of infinite optimism where life everlasting takes precedence over death, loss and mortality. The focus is turned from the temporal past to: salvation, rebirth and everlasting life. Monumental Cemetery Milan - © Copyright Northstar GalleryMemorial art functions as both tribute and hope with these sensuous figures embracing this powerful duality. It is interesting to observe that the cemetery is the ideal venue for art  dedicated to exploring this important duality. In one regard, these are surrogate mourners depicting how great the loss is and how deeply the deceased is missed. Their idealized beauty is spiritual: representing innocence, birth, rebirth, renewal, purity, fertility, commitment and passion. The greater their beauty the greater and more profound the loss and the greater the promise of eternal life. However in their dual role these women also serve as escorts in the journey ahead. As surrogate companions they stand post, watching over the both the deceased and the traveler. Forever present and forever young, they communicate the hope for eternal youth, beauty and vitality in the life to come. 2 


Classic automobiles, ships and bombers are always perceived as having feminine identities. The complex role of the feminine goddess becomes embodied in the vehicle itself in its sensuous design, form and lines and the pilots and drivers enter into an intimate dance with the machine and experience profound joy in possession of the object. The young exquisitely beautiful "Bomber Girls" draw on the archetype present since the beginning of the human race, serving as a metaphor for mother earth, fertility, renewal, salvation and life everlasting. They serve as a powerful symbol that draws on the deep connection between sexuality, death and rebirth. These forces are rooted deep in the human unconscious and it can be expected that they would seek expression in the stress, thrill and terror of mortal combat. Within this context it is hard to conceive of any other symbol or talisman that would so effectively serve the needs of hundred of thousands of young men who were called to heroic deeds and the confrontation of death on a daily basis. "Bomber Girls" are an enduring memorial to the courage and sacrifice of these young men.

WWII Bomber nose art

Briefing Time B-24

Photo by Northstar Imaging

These images and their associated symbols explore a collective yearning to understand the human condition, our vulnerability, our mortality, renewal, redemption and the terror of the unknown. These are the deep issues seeking transcendence and result in a profound desire to understand the meaning of our existence. Such passion is at the foundation of the great art of the Western World and our ultimate hope that the universe is not random.

WWII Bomber nose art  War Bird Nose Art

WWII Bomber nose art  Aviation Photography

  WWII Bomber nose art National Part Service Nose art 

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 WWII Bomber nose art Sensuality in the Art of the Automobile

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1. Robson, Deirdre. The Art of the Nude. p5

2. Robinson, David. Saving Graces. Afterward

3. Krupa, Frederique.  Paris: Urban Sanitation Before the 20th Century

5. Campbell, Joseph. (1988).   The Power of Myth. p.165

6. Campbell, Joseph. (1988).   The Power of Myth. p.167

7. Campbell, Joseph. (1988).   The Power of Myth. p.107

8. Camille, Michael. (1996). Master of Death p. 176

9. Clark, Kenneth. (1953). The Nude - A Study in Ideal Form p.29

10. Kasson, Joy. (1990). Marble Queens and Captives p46

11. Kasson, Joy. (1990). Marble Queens and Captives p61

12. Kasson, Joy. (1990). Marble Queens and Captives p173

13. Godwin, Malcolm. (1990). Angels - An Endangered Species p179

14. Jung, Carl. (1964). Man and His Symbols p132

15. Jung, Carl. (1964). Man and His Symbols p55

16. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p230

17. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p231

18. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p264

19. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p266

20. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p281

21. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p294

22. Ceysson, Bernard (1996) Sculpture p295

23. Yalom, Marilyn. (1997). The History of the Breast p44

24. Pollefeys, Patrick (1998) Dance of Death, - Internet Site

25.  Harris, Mike. (1998) Dance of Death, - Internet Site

26. Friedhofs Engle

27. John D. Shearer laliqueglass.com



Campbell, Joseph. (1988).   The Power of Myth.   Apostrophe S Productions, Inc., United States

Robinson, David. (1995). Saving Graces Images of Women in European Cemeteries. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Robson, Deirdre. (1995). The Art of the Nude. London: Parragon Book Service Ltd.

Krupa, Frederique. (1991).   Paris: Urban Sanitation Before the 20th Century [On-line].  

Camille, Michael. (1996). Master of Death - The lifeless Art of Pierre Remient - Illuminator. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Clark, Kenneth. (1953). The Nude - A Study in Ideal Form. The United States: Princeton University Press.

Kasson, Joy. (1990). Marble Queens and Captives. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Godwin, Malcolm. (1990). Angels - An Endangered Species. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Jung, Carl. (1964). Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books Limitted.

Ceysson, Bernard;  (1996). Sculpture From Renaissance to the Present Day (15th to 20th Century). New York: Taschen

Yalom, Marilyn. (1997). The History of the Breast. New York: Random House.

Harris, Mike  (1998) Dance of Death Internet site http://danceofdeath.tao.ca/index.html

Pollefeys, Patrick (1998) Dance of Death   Internet site http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Rue/3757/main.html

Friedhofs Engle http://www.friedhofsengel.de/frame1.htm?k1/k1i1.htm~Work

John D. Sherer http://www.laliqueglass.com/

Hood Ornaments & Mascots: http://www.geocities.com/katnat2/crossleyL.html

Finesse Fine Art: http://finesse-fine-art.com/

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