D H Lawrence – Women in Love, 1920

King Obalufon II c. 1300 AD. Copper mask from the king's palace. Ife, Nigeria. Museum of Ife Antiquities

Gerald looked round the room. It was an ordinary London sitting-room in a flat, evidently taken furnished, rather common and ugly. But there were several negro statues, wood-carvings from West Africa, strange and disturbing, the carved negroes looked almost like the foetus of a human being. One was a woman sitting naked in a strange posture, and looking tortured, her abdomen stuck out. The young Russian explained that she was sitting in child-birth, clutching the ends of the band that hung from her neck, one in each hand, so that she could bear down, and help labour. The strange, transfixed, rudimentary face of the woman again reminded Gerald of a foetus, it was also rather wonderful, conveying the suggestion of the extreme of physical sensation, beyond the limits of mental consciousness.

‘Aren’t they rather obscene?’ he asked, disapproving.

‘I don’t know,’ murmured the other rapidly. ‘I have never defined the obscene. I think they are very good.’

Gerald turned away. There were one or two new pictures in the room, in the Futurist manner; there was a large piano. And these, with some ordinary London lodging-house furniture of the better sort, completed the whole.

D H Lawrence 1885-1930. Women in Love, 1920. Chapter VI. Creme De Menthe

Image: King Obalufon II c. 1300 AD. Copper mask from the king’s palace. Ife, Nigeria. Museum of Ife Antiquities.

Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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