The Femme Fatale
The Surrealists were drawn to the archetype of the femme fatale, the character of the seductive woman who charms and traps her male prey. In 1934, the French sociologist Roger Caillois wrote about the praying mantis for the Surrealist journal Minotaure. This female insect who devours her mate after mating was a totemic model for Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, André Masson and other artists, articulating deep ambivalence about the perceived powers of female sexuality. Were these myths personal, political, or both? How did female artists like Meret Oppenheim envision alternative narratives about primal male threats?
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