Robert Mapplethorpe’s Intimate Gifts to His Lover and First Male Model, David Croland

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Robert Mapplethorpe and David Croland, New York City, 1971.

Photograph by Norman Seeff / © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

In 1970, Sandy Daley, a filmmaker who lived at the Chelsea Hotel,
invited her neighbor, a young artist named Robert Mapplethorpe, to
collaborate with her on a movie. The result, “Robert Gets His Nipple
Pierced,” was a thirty-three-minute documentary shot in Daley’s
all-white loft, for which Daley filmed Mapplethorpe undergoing the
painful procedure at the hands of Dr. Herb Krohn, the hotel’s resident
physician. The movie, which features a voice-over by Patti Smith, with
whom Mapplethorpe was living at the time, shows a glassy-eyed
Mapplethorpe, his naked torso strewn with rose petals like blooming
wounds, cradled in the arms of David Croland, who had recently become
Mapplethorpe’s boyfriend. Croland, a professional fashion model, was
also semi-clad: his chest was naked, adorned only with several dangling
necklaces made by Mapplethorpe. His hair fell, like Mapplethorpe’s, in
lavish curls around his face.

In her memoir “Just Kids,” from 2010, Patti Smith wrote that Croland was “a
puppet master, bringing new characters into the play of our lives,
shifting Robert’s path and the history that resulted.” Croland was a
couple of years younger than Mapplethorpe, who was born in 1946, in
Floral Park, Queens. But he had a gloss of sophistication by which
Mapplethorpe was fascinated. Croland had dated Susan Bottomly, the model
and Warhol superstar known as International Velvet, and had appeared in
several movies for Warhol. Having grown up in a wealthy and cultured
home in New Jersey—his father owned a textile company, his mother wore
couture—Croland offered Mapplethorpe an entrée to fashionable society,
and society manners. It was Croland who introduced Mapplethorpe to Sam
Wagstaff, who would become his patron, his dealer, and his lover.
(Wagstaff would die of complications from AIDS, in 1987; Mapplethorpe
died two years later.)

This October, Sotheby’s is offering at auction several objects that
Mapplethorpe made for or gave to Croland. “It was time,” Croland said
the other day, of his decision to sell at least part of his personal
Mapplethorpe collection. Croland served as Mapplethorpe’s first male
subject when he began taking Polaroid photographs. (Patti Smith was the
first woman who modelled for him.) He still has the long limbs and
slender physique that launched his modelling career. The precise measurements of his proportions are
immortalized in the first work that Mapplethorpe made for him, as a
twenty-second-birthday gift: a collage, incorporating Croland’s head
shot, hand-tinted by Mapplethorpe, and his modelling card. (He was
six feet two, with a thirty-five-inch chest, a thirty-inch waist, and
thirty-five-inch hips.) “I was stunned when he gave it to me, because we
had just met,” Croland said the other day, while looking over the
objects in a private lounge at Sotheby’s. Their first encounter had been
at the Chelsea Hotel, when Tinkerbelle, one of Warhol’s entourage,
brought Croland to the room that Mapplethorpe shared with Smith. Croland
recalled, “I fell into the room and practically onto him, which he
didn’t mind, and neither did I.”

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"Untitled (David Against Brick Wall)," Robert Mapplethorpe, 1970. A collage incorporating Croland’s head
shot and modelling card.

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"Le Serpentine/Spartacus," Robert Mapplethorpe, 1971. A photograph of a statue that Mapplethorpe took while on his first trip to Paris.

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A postcard Mapplethorpe sent to Croland during his first trip to Paris, 1971.

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Necklace of macramé-silk cords strung with beads, Robert Mapplethorpe, c. 1971.

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Necklace of macramé-silk cords strung with beads, Robert Mapplethorpe, c. 1971.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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