Deliciously decadent, Ellen von Unwerth‘s latest work has all the trappings of a classic, highly stylized tale of lasciviousness and a study in form, sexuality and society — albeit one tucked away behind the velvet curtain of propriety.
Titillating yet never prurient, “Revenge” depicts the erotic journeys of three young women who arrive for a respite at a rural manor. Instead, what follows is a series of sexually charged S&M scenes of the women as they become entagled with the Baroness (think “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with a stunning older woman in the antagonist role), her chauffer and her stable boy.
Each of the women finds herself at the mercy of handcuffs, leather accoutrements and blindfolds while clad — barely — in impeccable 1940s vintage fashions and situated in lavish surroundings.
The book itself, the size and shape of a diary sporting a black cloth cover, physically resembles a volume that might have been purloined from the Baroness’s own library. Supplemented by the rich tones of its high-quality printing, the book offers a visual as well as tactile delight — a triumph for Twin Palms Publishing, based in Santa Fe, N.M.
For von Unwerth, a fashion photographer whose work graces the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair, the work represents a honing of her craft of merging desire with setting. When von Unwerth does it well, as she does here, each element is inextricable from the other.
Unexpected and as far from cliché as nearly any artist working today, “Revenge” stands out as a bar that won’t be easy to clear for any who follow in her footsteps.