The bed | Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec | 1893
As Toulouse-Lautrec’s parents were blood cousins, Henri was born with congenital health problems. Although it is discarded that he suffered from dwarfism, in his maturity, the artist’s height was 1.54m. His physiognomy lead the artist not to participate in the activities man enjoyed at that time and it made Lautrec to immerse himself almost obsessively in his art.
Once he moves to Montmatre, the bohemian neighborhood in Paris, the artist became interested in the nightlife of the city. The motifs of his work will then refer to cabarets, bars and prostitutes. Even, when the famous Moulin Rouge opened its doors, Lautrec was the artist commissioned to paint the posters to promote it.
In the painting The bed, we can see two laying women looking at each other. Although the character in the right might seem a man is, actually, a woman with short hair. On the scene, Lautrec himself said “…It is the very epitome of sensual delight”. The artist painted an almost identical canvas entitled The kiss, in which the two characters are obviously kissing. Beyond the first impression, these paintings don’t reflect a lesbian relationship between the women. The girls that worked in the cabarets usually slept together at the end of the night, because there wasn’t any room for individual beds. It was common that the bond they developed was more fraternal than sexual, although this can be generalized. Lautrec’s The bed doesn’t seem to be about erotic desire. It just shows a tender scene where the women shelter together protecting themselves against a hostile or, at least, an indifferent world.