Always Front Laced
The notion of beauty has certainly evolved over the years, and in the first two decades of the 20th century the corset was still used to define it. Vallely produced at least 12 illustrations for the Modart Corset Company between 1918 and 1926, and the one above (from Pictorial Review of October 1920) is perhaps the most unusual. Rather than a portrait of a sophisticated socialite, this ad portrays more of an ethereal fantasy; a Romanesque goddess gently caressing a globe as a torch blazes behind her.
For years I was only aware of Valley's drawings for Big Little Books and Authorized Editions and had no clue as to his experience in advertising illustration, but in May of 2002 John Pansmith published an article in the Big Little Times which revealed the up to that point unknown history of Henry Valley. Through detective work that would make Batman proud, Pansmith had uncovered Vallely’s full name (Henry McKee Eustice Vallely), his year of birth and death (1881-1950) and compiled a list of all his known illustrations. Through the Big little Times’ founder and editor, Larry Lowery, I got in touch with Mr. Pansmith and began a correspondence. Together we’ve discovered several lost Vallely treasures and he’s been an indispensable aid in my quest for all things Vallely, this advertisement for Modart being one of them.