Prototype of the female

This 10 cm dish is an early ceramic work of Tom Sanders (1924-2008).

Émile Zola published his novel Nana in 1880.

Flaubert wrote Zola an effusive letter praising the novel in detail. In summation he wrote: “Nana tourne au mythe, sans cesser d’être réelle”. (Nana turns into myth, without ceasing to be real.)

Nana opens in 1867, the year of the World Fair, when Paris, thronged by a cosmopolitan elite, was a perfect target for Zola’s scathing denunciation of hypocrisy and fin-de-siècle moral corruption.

The fate of Nana, the Helen of Troy of the Second Empire, is now rendered in stylish English.

Prompted by his theories of heredity and environment, Zola set out to show Nana, “the golden fly”, rising out of the underworld to the height of Parisian society. In July 1870, outside her window the crowd is madly cheering “To Berlin! To Berlin!” to greet the start of the Franco Prussian War, which will end in defeat for France and the end of the Second Empire.

Niki de Saint Phalle called a series of her sculptures “Nanas”. She explained that her title evoked the prototype of the female: Eve! Aphrodite! Nana de Zola! Inusable! Increvable! (Eve! Aphrodite! Zola’s Nana! Everlasting! Indestructible!).

Tom Sanders

After serving in the Royal Australian Air Force as an Aircraftsman in WW2, Tom Sanders worked in Guy Boyd’s Sydney pottery as a potter and ceramic decorator. Tom moved back to Melbourne in 1949 and worked at the Hoffmann pottery in East Brunswick and with Arthur Boyd at Murrumbeena before setting up his own pottery “T & E Sanders” at Eltham.

Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 15 November 1949, page 7

The Argus (Melbourne), Tuesday 15 November 1949, page 7

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