The toes

by DRM

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William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Le Lever
Oil on canvas
1871
106 x 145.5 cm
(3’ 5.73” x 4’ 9.28”)
Metropolitan Museum of Art (Manhattan, New York, United States)

Come into this picture with me to find its sensual subversions, its temptations and titillations.

Don’t begin at the young boy’s eyes. Don’t start there, no matter how tempting the direct and knowing stare is, no matter how the sinuous body’s preternatural composure baffles you, no matter that you are stopped wondering at the visceral thread that binds woman and child. Is that a child?

Stop there.

Look at the toes. Look at the gentle splaying of the big toe, the precise placement of the foot against the ground. Imagine running the tip of your little finger along the rough space between the big toe and the first toe. Imagine feeling the heat of her foot.

Then the child’s, his bones faint like a bird, curled, a smile expressed into the air.

What a wonder are those toes!