By Claudia Simone Hoff
Just to be somewhere else – that’s what you’ve often wished for in the last few months. Having a foam fight, dipping your toes in warm water or just daydreaming: about the comeback of the bathtub in times of crisis.
Admittedly, the bath in the bathtub has always had a touch of luxury. If only because it takes more time to take a bubble bath than to jump into the shower. And it takes time to fill the tub and find the right water temperature. But then contemplation beckons and that’s what we long for in dark times. The bath in the tub is a little escape from everyday life, relaxation for body and soul and makes sure that we are completely with ourselves for a moment.
View through the keyhole
But the tub is also a place where you can wonderfully stage yourself and your body. You are naked without really being naked – surrounded by fragrant bath foam mountains. This is probably one of the reasons why the bathtub is so popular with the stars and starlets, next to the azure blue infinity pool, of course. Who doesn’t remember Liz Taylor as Cleopatra in the Hollywood film of the same name, sitting elegantly in a huge round tub. Or Marlon Brando in “The Last Tango in Paris”: casually squatting at the edge of the pool to scrub Maria Schneider’s feet. Also seen in the bathtub: Kim and Sylvie. They loll about lasciviously in the water with their luxurious bodies, let a knee flash through the foam here and a shoulder blade there, devote themselves entirely to the cult of the body – and post the scenes on Instagram in a public-effective and precisely dosed manner. The tub – its shape, material and size – also says something about the bather’s lifestyle, about his good and sometimes bad taste. The bathtub is a fleeting breath of privacy, exposed to the public gaze.
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Posing instead of bathing: Glamour à la Hollywood brings Julia Roberts to the bathroom, even when she poses in a tulle dress instead of lying in the water. Photo: © Instagram
Tub, nudity and art
Art shows that bathing is much more than mere body cleansing, but also has to do with beauty, sexuality and religion – across all eras and cultures. Vessels for bathing of all kinds and the process of bathing itself have always been artistic motifs, as biblical and mythological scenes for example. Or to depict nudity beyond common moral concepts, which was especially done by the impressionists in the 19th century. For example, the French artist Edgar Degas drew women sitting on the edge of the bathtub, lasciviously stroking their necks and legs with a sponge or drying them with a towel. While in Pierre Bonnard’s work the naked woman’s body shines through the water, in Edouard Manet’s work a naked woman with black knee socks prepares everything for a bath. So the tub has been a good excuse to expose the naked body, and not only since Instagram.
If showering is the duty, bathing becomes a freestyle – one could say exaggeratedly. This probably has something to do with the fact that you lie in the bath instead of standing under the showerhead as if you were standing under the shower. This is another reason why people like to linger a little longer in the warm water. So it’s no wonder that the bath is not just water in a container the size of your body. On the contrary: stories and rituals unwind around the bath, which sometimes condense into a total work of art. But as natural as the private bathtub may seem today, it took quite a long time for public bathing establishments and the notorious wet room to become a bathroom with wellness potential – 100 years, to be precise. First, engineers, tinkerers and designers had to invent such useful things as gas stoves, free-standing bathtubs, Jacuzzis and fully electronic instantaneous water heaters.
Delight & Wellness
The bathtub may be the epicentre of bathing, but to make bathing an experience, other things have to be added: the right room and water temperature, the right bath oil to match the mood, a beautiful ambience light, musical background music and fluffy terry towels. And not to forget: the room itself. The bathroom is complex – in functional, technical and aesthetic terms. And it is a place that is a status symbol, a distinctive space that demonstrates good taste and zeitgeist. It serves as a retreat and deceleration – in uncertain times more than ever.