Wednesday, February 3, 2010

She’s got it. Yeah, baby, she’s got it

Venus as an ever-changing icon of beauty in the history of art.

 Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility; features associated with women through the centuries. Today we’ll see her portrayal in Western art, constantly morphing according to the zeitgeist.
 Venus of Willendorf, a statuette with massive breasts and belly, was carved around 20,000 B.C. Whether made as a fecundity talisman, an anthropomorphic mushroom, or a P.O.V. self-portrait, she’s now a banner for female activists of all sizes.

Aphrodite of Cnidus, by Praxiteles, covered her genitals with a hand. The original no longer exists, but we count with several reproductions; like the armless Venus de Milo.(2) Once venerated in a niche, today worshipped as a Louvre highlight. 
Medieval Christianity thought women’s bodies sinful. Meanwhile, chivalry stories talked about unreachable ladies. She’s surrounded by a mandorla that keeps her away from her adorers

Reinassance brought us a plethora of Venusian paintings. Amongst the most iconic, we can find Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. (3) This redhead divinity, emerging from the sea, is recognised and parodied up to these day.

Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus is another example. The pose may presume modesty, but certain observers suggest she’s doing more than just sheltering her nether parts.

Titian made his own version, named it Venus of Urbino, and moved her from outdoors to nuptial bedroom. At her feet, a sleeping dog symbolises faithfulness.(4)
Manet’s Olympia was its 19th century answer, with a prostitute instead of a housewife. She ignores flowers sent by a fan; and at her feet there’s a cat ready to attack.
In History of Beauty, the last of Eco’s Venuses is Monica Bellucci (5) for the Pirelli Calendar. She’s a celebrity. No longer a deity or a whore; yet idolised as such.   Who could be the Venus of our decades? With today’s democracy and media coverage, anyone could get the place at the same time. We still have to see who’ll be our delegate in the pages of art history. Who would you propose?/Cynthia Rodríguez