“Ambiguous” (October, 1894)

“Ambiguous” (October, 1894)
by Charles Jay “C J” Taylor (1855-1929)
11.5 x 15.5 inches, ink on board
Coppola Collection

Taylor originally studied law at Columbia University, then moved to art at the Art Students League, the National Academy of Design (with Eastman Johnson) and City College of New York, as well as in London and Paris. He contributed illustrations to the New York’s Daily Graphic and magazines like Harpers, Puck and Punch. His book ‘Taylor Girls’ gained him international acclaim.

Fortunately, this one was easy to track down. In pencil it says “One of Taylor’s He-She Cartoons for Puck… Oct. 2, 1894”

The best digital archive of Puck issues includes some of the English ones and some of the German translations. I found this cartoon in a scanned copy from the German edition.

Puck (German Edition)
October 24, 1894 (pp 113-128)
No. 944; Vol 19 (8) p 123
(English Edition, Vol 36)

The caption is “Zweideutig” which means “Ambiguous”

The text is a dialog:

She: Apropos, hast Du Dir gestern aus dem Ball das Costüm betrachtet, welches die Soubrette – na, wei heiBt sie doch gleich? – richtig, Fräulein Di Diablo trug?

He: Ja, so sehr viel habe ich nicht daran sehen tönnen.

She: Ich auch nicht!


She: By the way, did you notice the costume from the ball yesterday, which that soubrette – well, what’s her name? – right, Miss Di Diablo was wearing?

He: Yes, I did not see it that much.

She: Neither did I!

No conversation that begins “By the way” is ever “By the way,” is it? (I think not)

“Soubrette” is a late 19th century term for “showgirl” that comes from meanings that include coy and flirtatious (is it now a term that applies to a voice at a certain type of operative voice/character.); it’s perhaps fair to say that its use here is less than flattering, as the woman rolls her eyes “well, what’s her name” (she knows), “right…” (she knows) “Miss Di Diablo” (um, right)

His reply? “Yes, I did not see it that much.” Is the zweiduetig in this episode.

And she brings it home the same way “Neither did I.”

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