I recently picked up this copy of Stolen Sweets, then as now a hard to find title. Back in the day it took a lot of street leather to find a streetside magazine vendor who would have a copy or two stashed behind the counter. If the vice cops got wind of it, the vendor would have been rewarded with a ride to the slammer in the back of a paddy wagon. This may seem like a relatively sedate cover but don't let your 21st century sensibilities mislead you. There's no ignoring that expanse of bare flesh, punctuated by an exposed navel. Her happy countenance over that cool dessert is simply Bolles' way of playing with the potential censor. And speaking of which, that sundae looks simply scrumptious.
The cover was merely the first course (assuming that you started with dessert). The interior of the magazine was peppered with naughty drawings, spiced with girls peeled of heir nighties, and stuffed with overripe stories featuring endless variations of the male conquest-all equally unappetizing. Of all my attempts I've never been able to shovel through more than a couple paragraphs. But there was something in this issue that made me do a double take. It was this photo. Not the retouched flesh or the theme of artist's model, which in the 20s was as charged as the two poles of a battery, but had lost all its spark a decade later. No, it was the background that was beckoning to me. Look closely and you'll see a canvas of the very painting that appears on the cover.
I told myself no, there was no way this was Bolles' studio. But then I took a closer look at the easel and that really got my heart pounding, because I've seen the real deal. Take a look at it for yourself and decide if you all my handwringing over this is nothing more than wishful thinking. What doesn't look right about the photo is the artist. The hair seems wrong, and I just can't conjure the publicity shy Bolles allowing this, though I do think he let the publicity photographer, Murray Korman in his studio to photograph models. The photo has obviously been touched up (penciling in to strengthen some of the weak outlines) but there's no way the painting was pasted in after the fact. And why bother? It only took 75 years for someone to finally notice it. And the easel...even the sketch on the canvas has a Bolles look to it. So, is it possible? Could we be peering at the only existing photo of Bolles painting a model?