The union of male and female, both as a metaphor for the creative act and as an incitement to an erotic reading of the human figure, had emerged as a central theme in the early Pop works of Allen Jones when he was still only in his mid-twenties, in some of the couplings of his shaped Bus canvases of 1962, in the falling figures and parachutists that followed a year later, such as Wunderbare Landung (Ferens Art Gallery, Hull), and particularly in isolation in works of 1963 such as Man Woman (Tate) and Hermaphrodite (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). As in the work of that period by artist friends from the Royal College such as R.B. Kitaj and David Hockney, there was then a highly personal, autobiographical dimension to his subject matter. These and other works, such as the shaped canvas Marriage Medal of 1963 and the suite of lithographs Concerning Marriages, published in 1964, were conceived partly to celebrate his own recent wedding. It was his reading of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and his immersion in the writings of C.G. Jung, however, that prompted the theoretical underpinnings of his concern with the creative act as a wedding of the male and female attributes within us all, and of the making of art as a combination of (male) action and (female) creation.
During a prolonged stay in New York in 1964-65 Jones showed recent works to Hockney, who assumed that the fusion or intermingling of male and female figures had its source in erotic magazines devoted to transvestitism which were in fact unfamiliar to Jones at the time. The intensity of those illustrations, marked by a shorthand visual style and by a feverish sexuality, proved a revelation to Jones and led him into a new phase of erotically charged depictions of the female figure which came to define his particular contribution to Pop Art.
The punningly titled Sin-Derella, playing humorously on Jones's newly acquired bad-boy image, and another large painting of the same year, A Figment in Pigment, were made at the same time as the soon-to-be notorious furniture sculptures depicting women as a Hatstand, a Chair and a Table. The paintings are gentler and less confrontational than those excursions into three dimensions but proved to be just as central to his subsequent work, particularly in their introduction of performers on stage: singers, dancers, orchestral conductors, pianists, acrobats and magicians are among the many types of entertainers who have peopled the universe of Jones's art. In Sin-Derella the substitution of fragments of the figure for the whole, the development of a more volumetric materialization of the body in paint, the exploration of rich and daring colour harmonies and above all the theatrical presentation of an entwined dancing couple, all of which have proved to be mainstays of Jones's art, are all already expressed with total conviction.
As a student Jones had immersed himself in colour theory, and particularly in the work of such early 20th-century Modernist painters as Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky whose pioneering abstractions were predicated on the use of a wide colour spectrum and on analogies between music and painting. Without wishing to abandon figuration, Jones was seduced by these parallels between musical and pictorial composition and found in the joyful abandonment of the body to rhythm a vibrant representational solution to those notionally abstract concerns. He found philosophical support for this imagery in Nietzsche, going so far as to borrow some lines from Zarathustra for the title of a 1965 painting, Neither Forget Your Legs:
Lift up your hearts my brethren,
higher and higher!
Neither forget your legs also ye good dancers
and better yet if ye can stand upon your head.
The man and woman that form the centre of attention in Sin-Derella, viewed from the waist down, might be said to be the very embodiment of George Bernard Shaw's witty and racy description of dancing as 'the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music'. This eroticism is subsumed into every element of the painting: into the choice of motif, into the concentration on buttocks, shapely legs and fetishistic stiletto heel, into the obsessive rendering of the folds of the woman's tightly fitted stockings, even into the passionate reds, yellows and oranges that dominate the colour scheme. This encounter between a man and a woman, fused through mutual attraction into a single four-legged animal, is explicitly presented as a performance staged for the delight and entertainment of a voyeuristic audience. Their forms materialize before us in a cone of light, suggesting a bright spotlight that draws attention to their presence on an otherwise dimly lit stage. The activity to which our attention is drawn is contained entirely within that represented shape, just as an actual spotlight in a darkened theatre directs the gaze of the audience. In so drawing attention to the couple as performers in his own imagination, and as the embodiment of pure sensual pleasure, the artist subtly suggests that the painting itself is a kind of performance imbued with style, grace and balletic dynamism.