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« Photography and Painting | Main | Guest Posting -- Yvonne Harrison »

December 15, 2002

Free Reads -- Reclining Nudes

Friedrich --

Are you fascinated by the way art and pornography quarrel, feud, and occasionally make nice? I am, so much so that I sometimes wonder how much of an art fan I'd be if it weren't for the dicey relations between and art and porn. I mean, a still life can be a mighty pretty thing, but even so ...

The Guardian recently ran a crisp and helpful introduction to the history of the reclining-nude genre by Frances Borzello, readable here. Bizarrely, the online version of Borzello's piece is unillustrated. 2Blowhards is more than happy to correct that oversight. (These images are pop-ups, so click on them and treat yourself to bigger versions.)

Giorgione's elegance sets the pattern; Manet and his riot grrrl break the fourth wall

Sample passage:

Its own set of conventions: historically, reclining nudes are presented in the guise of a classical goddess. Its own poses: she tends to lie with her eyes turned from the spectator, or even closed, offering no obstacle to his free-ranging glances over her body. Its own compositional devices: an impish figure may hold aside the drapery to frame the body and create a display for the viewer's delectation. Its own set of similes: she often stretches out in a landscape whose hummocks and valleys metaphorically echo her curves. Photography carried this to extremes in the 20th century by depicting female bodies as smooth-surfaced boulders in a landscape. And its own taboos: pubic hair stays resolutely out of the picture because it signified the woman's own demanding sexuality, which could be felt as threatening.



posted by Michael at December 15, 2002


What's interesting is that the Giorgione woman appears to be about 8 head-lengths tall, which either makes her remarkably small-headed or fully 6 feet in height (presumably, a very unusual size for a female model in the 16th century). Whereas the Manet grrrl is around 6 and a half head lengths, which would make her around 5 feet tall. I "believe" the proportions in Manet are closer to reality, but I must say I'm intrigued at the history of Renaissance proportion-modification. All I know is that Michelangelo was heavily into modified proportions and that the Florentine Mannerists followed his example. The whole notion might have derived from International Gothic prototypes or Classical models, I suppose, but I'm just guessing here. Anybody on top of this?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 16, 2002 3:18 PM

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