Two Ladies by William Rothenstein

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Two women holding hands, both wearing hats and dresses that expose cleavage. One woman is holding up her breasts.
Two Ladies, by William Rothenstein (1896)


This image, entitled “Two Ladies,” is featured towards the end of The Savoy, vol. 2, April 1896 on page 165. It is a reproduction of an oil-painting by William Rothenstein (1872 – 1945) and features two young women who seem to be hand-in-hand walking through a landscape. What is most interesting about this image is how the dresses of both women are falling down, revealing a considerable amount of cleavage.

The woman on the right stares away from the audience but leaves her face in full view, unlike the woman on the left who seems more bashful. These features, paired with the shading and delicate shapes of the women, invokes the male gaze and offers an erotic and sensual feeling to the image.

It is interesting to note that Rothenstein was embarrassed by the eroticism of his contemporaries (he even gave paintings away because he was embarrassed), when he so distinctly creates that same erotic sensibility in this painting. Rothenstein was well known for his portraits of men and women of distinction and completed hundreds of paintings during his lifetime. As The Savoy was geared towards a lower class audience, a printing of this image serves to reproduce high forms of art that would appeal to wider audiences.


Works Cited

Rothenstein, William. “Two Ladies.” The Savoy, vol. 2, April 1896, p. 165. The Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra 2018-2019. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019,

Shaw, Samuel. “William Rothenstein (1872-1945),” Y90s Biographies , edited by Dennis Denisoff, 2013. Yellow Nineties 2.0, General Editor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019,

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