Ashley Hutson

Contemplations on F.X. Leyendecker’s “The Flapper” LIFE Feb. 2, 1922 Cover

It was February and nobody was dressed for it. The illustration is a magazine cover is a poster is a framed print on a wall. There is a woman in a costume not suited for cold weather, and she is being crucified. She is being taken over by a giant Eastern Tiger Swallowtail who will not take No for an answer. She is being sutured onto the butterfly’s body by request, as the butterfly has admired her for a while. She was caught in the middle of things. She was bending her knees in an experimental way, testing her flexibility. She had her arms out, waiting to embrace the world, and now this. She had almost started smiling. A very large scientist in cahoots with the butterfly plucked her up mid-dance, dropped her into a jar of gasoline to freeze her dead, and here she is: dead, preserved, sewn onto a monster swallowtail, suspended in white space in February in a flimsy dress, looking like she could hug the world forever.