Reviews of the Romantic ballet, circulating in the mid-nineteenth century, frequently discussed the ballerina in terms of body parts, rather than as a whole. As Roy Porter (2001) points out, “praise of female body parts [is] inseparable from voyeuristic and salacious mental undressing: with the anatomized woman becoming in effect a pin-up” (p. 244). Keeping this in mind, the reviews of the Romantic ballet provided an impressive source of “pin-up” literature, providing accounts and appraisals of female bodies rather than dancers. There seems to exist a particular fascination with the legs and feet of the ballerina, the focus on these two body parts dominating the commentary of numerous critics from this period. Theophile Gautier’s remarks on the subject of Fanny Elssler demonstrate this anatomization of the body well (Guest 1965):
" Mlle. Fanny Elssler is tall, supple, and well-formed; she has delicate wrists and slim ankles; her legs, elegant and well-turned, recall the slender but muscular legs of Diana, the virgin huntress; the knee-caps are well-defined, stand out in relief, and make the whole knee beyond reproach; her legs differ considerably from the usual dancers’ legs, whose bodied seem to have run into their stockings and settled there; they are not the calves of a parish beadle or of a jack of clubs, which arouse the enthusiasm of the old roués in the stalls and make them continuously polish the lenses of their opera-glasses, but two beautiful legs like those of an antique statue, worthy of being cast and studied with care. We shall be pardoned, we hope, for having discoursed at such length on legs, but we are speaking of a dancer." (p. 21)
Gautier’s fascination with Elssler’s body parts, in particular her legs, is clear. What is also evident is that this fascination is somewhat taboo.