Ondine And The Water Nymphs: When Bath Foam, The Pre-Raphaelites And Easy Listening Collided

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Back in the 1970s, you could see naked women everywhere. On book, magazine and record covers, and in advertising, nudity was common place. Take Ondine Bath Dew, a rather pretentiously named brand of bath foam that featured bare-breasted women on its advertising and packaging, and which produced the industry-only promotional record Music To Bathe By in 1975. This easy listening LP featured music by the likes of Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash, Vicki Carr, Aretha Franklin and Percy Faith, none of which had anything to do with bathing. Packaged in a gatefold sleeve full of promotional information, the album was released by CBS Special Products and is currently worth more or less nothing.

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July 1975 ad from Cosmopolitan. Original image source here

Of course, naked women in an ad for bath foam is perhaps not an incongruous idea – few people bathe with their clothes on. But this image was more than just cheesecake. It’s actually based on the 1896 painting Hylas and the Nymphs, by the pre-Raphaelite inspired artist John William Waterhouse. And it’s an impressive recreation – even the models seem to resemble the women in the painting.

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I suspect the days of bath foam packaging – or indeed, any promotional material – featuring photography inspired by classical nude paintings are long over. A pity. In any case, it didn’t seem to do much for Ondine Bath Dew’s sales, and the brand quickly vanished from the shelves.

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