The Temptresses is an oil painting by American artist Dottie Silver, who was working under the pseudonym “Nick Gold” at the time. Completed in the fall of the year 1932, it depicts a dapper young gentleman, fully clothed, surrounded by a trio of naked women—the nudity of whom is strategically obscured by the positioning of the gentleman’s body.
A close analysis of the painting forms the centerpiece of Michael Silver’s book Cloth & Flesh: The Power of Juxtaposition in the Pinup Art of Nick Gold, in which the younger Silver compares techniques demonstrated in his late, great-aunt’s sketchbooks with the published work of “Gold” to argue that Dottie Silver and Nick Gold were one and the same.
Description & Analysis
The four subjects of the work stand on the steps of The Minister’s Mister. The dapper gentleman, who Michael Silver believes to be his great-aunt, stands front and center and stares intently out of the painting and deep into the eyes of any and all onlookers. A blonde woman has draped herself around the gentleman’s right side, whilst a brunette has wound herself around his left arm. Meanwhile, a redheaded woman has wrapped her arms about the gentleman’s neck and shoulders and is pressing her cheek to his. Each of the women wears a wicked smile and is focused on the gentleman, on trying to distract him from whatever—or whoever, in Michael Silver’s estimation—he is staring at off-camera.
In Cloth & Flesh, Michael Silver argues that Dottie has painted themself into “The Temptresses” as the dapper young gentleman. As evidence, he points to stylized self-portraits from Dottie’s sketchbook which bear a striking resemblance to the gentleman, and to the fact that Dottie published comics and pin-up work under a male pseudonym.
Michael goes on to argue that the three women in the portrait are modeled on trans women who Dottie befriended during their time as a regular at the Minister’s Mister, and that “The Temptresses” was in fact a gift to them—an idealized portrait of how Dottie saw them, and how they strove to see themselves.
As for who Michael believes the gentleman is looking at just off-camera (or off-canvas, if you will), he admits in Cloth & Flesh that his hypothesis is based on his grandfather’s contention that Dottie was a “wild stallion.”
“The gentleman is looking at you,” Michael writes. “The invitation in his eyes could be for anyone. Hell, it could be for everyone.
If Michael’s hypothesis from Cloth & Flesh is to be believed, Dottie painted the work from a reference photograph shot in late October 1932. Though no reference photo has ever been found, sketches of the front steps of The Minister’s Mister riddle the pages of the journal Dottie kept that year—and most of them are from the same angle as The Temptresses. Combine that with Michael’s well-constructed argument that Dottie is painting themself as the gentleman, and this theory becomes quite convincing indeed.
Prints of the painting were sold inside the Minister’s Mister from as early as December 1932 and were a hot commodity until the bar burned to the ground in early 1933. They circulated throughout both the art and comics communities over the next 70 years, until Michael Silver chanced upon one during his graduate work at the University of Hawaii and discovered the signature was identical to the one found on all of Nick Gold’s other work.
The original is thought to have been lost in the fire which consumed the Minister’s Mister in 1933, but is in fact still on display inside the Mister at its new home on The Skerry of Souvenirs.
It hangs above the toilet in the venue’s small restroom, so that the gentleman can observe the business at hand. The current owners of the place think this only fitting, given the painter’s penchant for playing the part of provocateur.
In November 2010, as part of a prank/pick-me-up targeting a downtrodden Michael Silver, Michael’s wife Jenna came together with family friends Amber Keahi and Carrie Armstrong to pose for a recreation and “reversal” of Dottie’s Temptresses—which Jenna knew was Michael’s favorite painting of all time.
In The Temptresses II by Michael Silver, three fully clothed women drape themselves around the body of a completely naked man. Much the same as the original, the figure at the center of the painting is a self-portrait of the painter themself. But in Michael’s version, at the prompting of his wife and their friends, and with a sizeable portion of liquid courage in his belly, no one attempts to obscure the nudity on display. The gentleman’s “junk” is right there for all to see.