During the Weimar Republic the categories of “good,” traditional women and “deviant,” modern women became imprecise as widows’ veils and garb were often adopted by prostitutes to deter arrest. Widows were linked with death and Germany’s postwar shame and were often unfairly associated with prostitutes. Otto Dix, a Neue Sachlichkeit artist, was aware of the postwar ambiguity between “respectable” and “fallen” women. In a watercolor of a veiled widow, Dix engaged the elision of prostitutes and widows by visually implying she has syphilis, a disease that caused widespread anxiety and was inextricably linked with prostitutes. Just as syphilis was referred to as “the Great Imitator” because of the difficulty of diagnosing it, so prostitutes masqueraded as “morally upright” widows. This ambiguity between moral and immoral women caused concern over Germany’s perceived moral decline and fascinated Dix, who was intrigued by the dangerous nexus of sexuality, disease, and death.

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