I was utterly horrified recently to discover that I do not appear to have done a post on kissing. How on earth has this happened? How have I managed to trundle on for five years without doing a snogging post? I offer my gravest and most expansive apologies for this oversight and wish to rectify this alarming oversight herewith. Pucker up, chums, and brace yourself...
|The Kiss (The Lovers) (1907-8) Gustav Klimt|
Let's just get this out of the way - there is no way I could do this post without dragging out Klimt and his golden couple. I like the idea that this is Apollo and Daphne, with Daphne transforming back from being a tree as her lover embraces her. Although they are separate figures in the patterns that make them up, they morph into one gilded shape. The chap is kissing the cheek of his beloved rather than her lips, or maybe she wanted look to the side and get her face in the picture. T'uh, that's women for you.
|Stealing a Kiss Pierre Outin|
Still, the chap in The Kiss is doing better than this chap who is just getting some ear action. I'm sure the master and mistress of the house would be delighted to know about the shenanigans going on downstairs, especially as dinner seems to be going over the floor. No wonder the dog looks happy.
|The Kiss Henry Stock|
It's not only the slightly different perspective that makes this picture one of my favourite romantic images. I seem to remember it was a front cover for a Thomas Hardy novel, which probably isn't a good thing, but I think it is so dreamy and romantic and the woman's eyes are just wonderfully rendered. His hand is in her hair and the contrast in their skin is so striking. It is so intimate in its focus and so very romantic.
|The Kiss Silvio Allason|
Just as Stock's couple seem relaxed and happy, Silvio Allason's lovers have a bit of a problem. Something has come between them and you have to wonder if the gate is a metaphor for other obstacles such as family disapproval. It's either that or an old-fashion form of contraception. I hate to draw attention to it, but I don't think it would be very effect because the holes look quite big. The shame of it, getting pregnant through the garden gate...
|The Kiss of the Siren (1882) Gustav Wertheimer|
Looking at snogging pictures, you predictably end up with quite a few mermaids snogging sailors to their doom. If you have ever been snogged to your doom, I trust you didn't enjoy it too much, you saucy bunch. Anyway, our white-bottomed siren is kissing some chap right out of his boat to what I assume is a watery grave. He doesn't look too bothered about it, but then she is awfully comely. I hope this sort of thing doesn't happen too often as I suspect half of you would be over the side of that boat without a thought for my page view figures.
|The Kiss (1859) Francesco Hayez|
Second only to The Meeting on the Turret Stair by Frederic Burton for castle-snogging scenes, Francesco Hayez's The Kiss has no utterly tragic back story and our couple have managed a proper full-on pash. There is a glimpse of his stocking-clad leg (steady on) and his hat is smashing. I'd probably kiss him too. Who am I kidding? I definitely kiss him, I kiss everyone.
|Romeo and Juliet (1886) Julius Kronberg|
Naturally, Romeo and Juliet get a good showing in snogging art and the balcony scene is a safe bet (Parting is such sweet sorrow, shut the gate and I'll see you tomorrow). Kronberg's Romeo is sneaking a crafty snog before he climbs down what appears to be an emergency ladder. Nothing like coming prepared...
|Romeo and Juliet (1884) Frank Dicksee|
Possibly the finest of the doomed teenage lovers has to be Dicksee's offering with the pair sharing their final kiss as he scarpers. Look at those thighs! Ahem, apologies...
|Paolo and Francesca (1902) Christopher Williams|
Another doomed couple seen in happier, smoochier times are Paolo and Francesca, pictured embracing which admittedly ends up in eternal damnation and the suchlike but was good while it lasted. It's nice to see them snogging rather than in a skewered heap which is their other traditional pose. What is it in us that makes us love doomed love? Why are couples who are being rather naughty and will imminently die violently far more picturesque than couples who love quietly and without stabbing? Is it the depth of Romeo and Juliet's love that is celebrated or that it was so short? Is their mayfly desire somehow more precious than decades of love? Do we find Paolo and Francesca swoony because they are about to be kebabed together for all eternity on a sword courtesy of her husband? Do we all secretly want to kiss someone who is forbidden, do we live vicariously through doomed lovers, knowing great and perilous sexy love, pursuing our own desires even if it kills us?
|In Bed (The Lovers) (1892) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec|
I wonder if Victorian art's fascination in kissing stems from the fact that it couldn't show anything further. This image by Toulouse-Lautrec is surprisingly graphic and modern as it is easy to have a sneaky suspicion that the couple aren't married (well, not to each other any ways) and they are in bed, naked. NAKED! This rumpled couple in their comfy bed are as erotic as it gets, with his rosy earlobes and her golden bracelet, they are a million miles away from the more staged love of the traditional Victorian scene.
|The Kiss (1868) Carolus Duran|
Take this pair, for example. There is nothing wrong with them, I especially love the way he cradles her head. I think one thing that becomes obvious from studying images of nineteenth century snogging is that a good number of artists had a thing about shoving their hands in ladies hair. I suppose it probably stems from the fact that a woman's hair would only be 'unbound' in an intimate situation and so it took on an erotic, fetish quality. In everyday life, a woman's hair was something you could see but it would be all rolled up and not something you could plunge your hands into, like a billowing, silky sea. In many a Victorian painting, if a gentleman is going for a kiss, he's also fondling her tresses at the same time.
|A Kiss Under a Parasol Ludek Marold|
Also, as a courting couple, kissing was as far as it was meant to go (and not too much of that either, thank you very much). Obviously, real life probably wasn't that chaste, but the ideal was that the most you could hope for, pre-marriage, was a torrid kiss behind an umbrella after you have purposefully lagged behind at a picnic. These days it seems that you are meant to greet completely strangers stark naked as an ice breaker (if adverts for the latest tv gameshow are to be believed) and I have some hair-raising stories about the near compulsory nature of casual promiscuity which is both encouraged and condemned in confusingly equal measure. There is something extremely attractive about a world where a quick kiss behind a hedge with the one you love is the height of romance. It certainly takes the pressure off, so to speak.
|The Kiss (1886) Auguste Toulmouche|
So, in conclusion, kissing is a good thing and there should be more of it, within reasonable and legal bounds. Whether you are kissing your spouse, your lover, a clown at a party or whoever, may you be loved and treasured, with minty breath.
And remember, if there is no-one around for a snog, don't let that hold you back...
|Vanity Auguste Toulmouche|