Part Two: The Post-Dark Ages to the Renaissance Age
Prehistory seems to be the golden age of women’s power and freedom, a time of hundreds of female goddesses and the Mother Goddess freely worshipped rather than erased. History, war, and women’s ideals of beauty are culturally cyclical, but there are universal hammers that hit the nail on the head, just as the Hammer of Witches marks the universal hysteria against female sexual freedom, financial freedom, and body image freedom.
Although historically the Dark Ages are a time of illiteracy and the lack of sharing of knowledge, a time when the Christian religion takes a foothold, the fall of mankind is blamed on Eve, or the harlot, the demon Lilith, Mary Magdalene, the earth goddess goes underground - is loosley disguised as the Virgin Mary. In some places like the Basque region, caves are devoted to the Black Madonna and the Goddess is secretly worshiped, for fear of the Inquisition, whilst in public the Church and Christianity is practiced.
In the Medieval Era is beginning of the terrorization of women that had those who would not conform, were too ugly, too pretty or had property desired by the local magistrate, the witch hunts. The hunts roughtly lasting in Europe as a widespread phenomenon from 1450 to 1750. However, the Modern Age has not escaped this scapegoating practice it seems preposterous, but times have not changed at all, nor has the backward oppressive mentality - executing manily women for practicing witchcraft is still happening today. As with in the past, still a means of social control or profit, women are still being killed charged with sorcery, blackmagic, or witchcraft in India, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Saudi Arabia tragically as recent as within the last few years.
Although I merely try to scratch the surface, pr perhaps pique your intrest on a subject and not venture too deeply into a blog subject, sometimes it is hard to keep it short as to do it some amount of clarity and justice. I choose to focus this blog on the few images of the ample goddess that peeked through the barrier of darkness and oppression for women during this time. Just as the Baroque Age is named after the imperfect pearl we are celebrating the real lushness of the true natural woman who does not starve herself, who has flaws, yet embraces them whole-heartedly.
The whole issue of nakedness and shame associated with Christianity and mysogyny are a whole other blog, it is relevant to note that while the Church frowned on the use of the nude in religious art, it still squeaked by and was celebrated by creative minds such as in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, as well as in his colossal male nudes, even if the fig leaves were added later. Celtic, Roman, and Byzantine, as well as those from China, Japan, and Korea kept the goddess' likeness alive through the visual arts during this dark time.
The Mongols would invade in the 13th century, and the Black Death would soon come. War and the wiping-out of humanity through the plague would leave a deep scar in the arts. But, in India, Pakistan, China, The Americas, the embodiments of the goddess were going strong.
After the Middle Ages, a period called The Renaissance (1400-1600) emerged as a time where artists returned to the natural world, travel, philisophy, and thinking outside the contraints of merely religion, to perhaps get to know the self within the natural realm, although the doctrine of the era is considered Catholic, because in essence the Church would become the biggest patron of some of the greatest artists of the time, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo:
"Following the renewed interest in the Classical past and the influence of humanist thought, Italian artists during the early Renaissance were preoccupied with making pictures that their viewers would find entirely believable. The real, however, was balanced by the ideal, especially when the subjects were mythological or religious. Whereas during the Middle Ages, depictions of the nude body had been avoided except to show the weakness and mortality of such sinners as Adam and Eve, during the Renaissance, artists portrayed the idealized nude figure as the embodiment of spiritual and intellectual perfection." (Source: Norton's History & Context, Chapter 3.6, Art of Renaissance and Baroque Europe)
In a piece written on the nude in the Middle Ages by Jean Sorabella: “The rediscovery of Greco-Roman culture in the Renaissance restored the nude to the heart of creative endeavor. Nude figures based on antique models appear in Italy as early as the mid-thirteenth century, and by the mid-fifteenth century, nudes had become symbols of antiquity and its reincarnation.”
The goddess and its embodiment in the women who are the subject, be it Biblical, mythical, or local in the barmaids and brothels, whore of Babylon or Eve, they are blamed and celebrated, reviled and relished, at the same time. They want to see her in her primal glory:
“The female nude of classical inspiration also returned to favor in the Renaissance. Venetian painters invented a new image of Venus as a recumbent figure, lying naked in a landscape or domestic interior. Although they reflect the proportions of ancient statuary, such figures as Titian's Venus and the Lute Player (36.29) and Venus of Urbino (1538; Uffizi, Florence) highlight the seductive warmth of the female body rather than its ideal geometry. As interest in mythological subjects increased, artists found new approaches to nude figures, male and female.” (Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Org)
Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 ) chose mythic female symbols like Leda, who in early sketches, like the one pictured at the start of this blog) Study for Leda Kneeling, are ample and rippling in their sensual glory.
Four Witches by Albrecht Dürer, made in 1497
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) the charistmatic printmaker and painter, would turn the demonized witch into his muse in his iconic woodcuts like the Four Witches, although in his time he was known for his Madonna and Child, Adam and Eve, and opulent portraits. He painted some incredible and haunting self-portraits which have immortalized him in our curiosity. Yet, there are hidden gems in his work that show goddess mythology was on his mind, like the unfinished work showing a woman, warrior or heroine, holding a shield.
Albrecht Dürer's Proportion Study of a Female Nude with a Shield,
unfinished with no known date
The painter with one English name Titian (around 1489-1576) Tiziano Vecelli, painted some iconic and beautiful works of Salmome, or Judith, with the severed head of John the Baptist on a platter. He would also paint subjects from martyrs to Ariadne, my favorite works by him are Danaë, and his many versions of the Venus completed in the 1550s. It is difficult to pick a favorite Venuse, for there is Sleeping Venus, Venus Blindfolding Cupid, Venus and the Lute Player, and Venus with a Mirror to name a few.
Well then, I would have to choose Venus Anadyomene, because of its beauty depicting Venus rising from the sea, perhaps the small touch of her wringing her hair, as if to bring the divine down to earthly realm we all face daily in such a task as wringing our wet hair after a bath. Venus looks away, which invited the gazer to freely drink in her ample naked body, and after a while of staring perhaps notice the shell and undulating waves in the background, the grey storm-tinged clouds overhead, these details that make it look so realistic, yet ironically her flesh comes across closer to alabastor or ghostly marble than human flesh.
The more whimsical and humourous one to me is the Organist's gaze staring straight at her yoni, a bold statement on the source of life, fertility, lust, and a great subject matter for art.
Titian's Venus and Organist and Little Dog, circa 1550
Titian's Danaë, painted around 1553 to 1556, part of a series his did on the subject of her.
Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640) is the origin of the term Rubenesque came to be born, Rembrandt, and Renoir are the creative souls who also chose not to idealise, fantisize, and once again mythologize the female form but to show it as is with ripples, dimples, rolls and all but remains beautiful and lovely. Although Rubens may not have been the only artist to use ample, lush, rippling-fleshed nude models, but he is forever upon our tongues.
Because of the artist's celebration and utilization of the ample model in his nudes, there is actually a word named after him, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: Rubenesque - (of a woman) having a round body with large breasts and hips. From the name of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, who often painted women with large, fairly fat bodies.
Beautiful. Curvy, realistic, more on the plump side than emaciated, an inviting and comforting nude.Rubens' famous, and infamous painting Venus at the Mirror, circa 1615, pictured below.
"The art historian Kenneth Clark, presenter of the sweeping BBC series Civilisation, most elegantly took the measure of Rubens when he wrote in his 1956 book The Nude: ‘Why do we burn with indignation when we hear people who believe themselves to have good taste dismissing Rubens as a painter of fat naked women, and even applying the epithet vulgar? What is it, in addition to sheer pictorial skill, that makes his nudes noble and life-giving creations? His answer is simple: ‘The golden hair and swelling bosoms of his Graces are hymns of thanksgiving for abundance, and they are placed before us with the same unselfconscious piety as the sheaves of corn and piled-up pumpkins which decorate a village church at Harvest Festival.’ ‘Hymns of thanksgiving for abundance’ — that is what you must think when you see Rubens’ women with their dimpled thighs, the soft, soufflé folds of their stomachs and their yielding flesh." (Source: Laura Freeman of the Daily Mail)
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2920955/Genius-wobbly-bits-beautiful-new-exhibition-celebrates-Rubens-real-reasons-muses-curvy-insatiable-gluttons.html#ixzz3tI7BdEJ5
Venus at Her Toilet, circa by Peter Paul Rubens. circa 1608
Rubens' Three Graces, circa 1639
Artemesia Gentileschi (1593-1656) the bold Baroque artists who delved into the exuberant and grandeur, the artistic style named after an imperfect or misshaphen pearl. The grace and pathos, balanced with the juxtaposition of violence and beauty, make her work is quite haunting.
The Etymology of the term Baroque (1590-1725), is as follows:
"The French word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco" or Spanish "barrueco" both of which refer to a "rough or imperfect pearl", though whether it entered those languages via Latin, Arabic, or some other source is uncertain. It is also yields the Italian "barocco" and modern Spanish "barroco", German "Barock", Dutch "Barok", and so on." (Source: Wikipedia)
Lucretia by Artemesia
Artemesia's paintings evoke such emotion and emit from the female subjects, a haunting suffering, such as Susanna, Mary Magdalene, Judith, Bathsheba, Esther, Lucretia, Clio, Delilah, and Saint Ceclia.
Of course, there is also a lovely Sleeping Venus painted by Artemesia, pictured below.
The Baroques, like Caravaggio, loved the macabre and the irregular, the dark and the visceral, it appeals to all the sense and covered all aspects of art from music, dance, theater, to architecture, literature, sculpture, to painting. It lasted long enough to garner three periods of designation, the Early Baroque (circa1590-1625), the High Baroque (c.1625-1660), and the Late Baroque (c.1660-1725).
So, be fearless in your bathing suit, your birthday suit at that Nudist beach close to you.
Let it flow, and jiggle, and ripple because it is all you.
Next Blog: Adoration of the Ample Goddess, Part Three coming soon...