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Spring Sale at Bendel's

Florine Stettheimer (American, 1871–1944)

Florine Stettheimer set this scene like a stage, framed by a grand red staircase at left and a long red drape mimicking a theater curtain at right. The depicted customers of Bendel’s, the famous Manhattan department sore, lack the decorum and manners expected of women in this period. Instead, they frantically dive for clearance items, change clothes, inspect garments, and examine their mirrored reflections. Stettheimer lets us see "behind the curtain" to observe these women during a moment of unabashed liberation.


The action-packed canvas contains an astonishing thirty-two people and two dogs, including the Pekingese at the forefront who serves as a surrogate for the artist, as indicated by the "FS"-monogrammed sweater. Henri Bendel, the store’s queer owner, stands in the left foreground. Opposite is an androgynous salesperson, whose appearance and pose—slicked-back platinum hair, rosy lips, and delicate hand gesture—align with how white gay men often presented themselves at the time.

Object Details

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