Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Venus seen from America and Russia

Giorgione (1477-1510), Sleeping Venus
Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
"She’s all just harmony and wonder, higher than passions and the world, she rests, with her sweet shyness, under her beauty’s ritual abode."

- Alexander Pushkin, To Beauty

The author of this blog, having recently applied to join a US-based blog distribution service, which discretion compels him not to name, was more than a little amused to receive the following email in reply:

"Thank you for submitting your blog to us! Unforunitly (sic), at this time, we are unable to approve your blog due to the small amounts of nudity in a couple blog postings. While these are very tasteful (and famous) works of art, we are asked by our clients that we keep any and all nudity from blogs certified into the system. We very much understand that these works of art are classy (sic) and not pornographic in any form, but we must comply with our clients wishes. We hope you understand. Thanks so much! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks again."

We would like to keep you amused, but fear we may be alone in finding something unintentionally hilarious in this Russian-produced clip on Giorgione's Sleeping Venus, recently featured on the art history blog Three Pipe Problem:

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) (1490-1576), Venus of Urbino
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
In a similar vein, our attention was brought by the Museworthy blog to the following famous reaction to Titian's Venus of Urbino (for which Giorgione's Venus is, of course, the main inspiration) by the American writer Mark Twain in 1880:

"You enter, and proceed to that most-visited little gallery that exists in the world - the Tribune - and there, against the wall, without obstructing rag or leaf, you may look your fill upon the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses - Titian's Venus. It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed - no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude, there would be a fine howl - but there the Venus lies, for anybody to gloat over that wants to - and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and Art has its privileges.

Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Olympia
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
I saw young girls stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gaze long and absorbedly at her; I saw aged, infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest. How I should like to describe her - just to see what a holy indignation I could stir up in the world - just to hear the unreflecting average man deliver himself about my grossness and coarseness, and all that. The world says that no worded description of a moving spectacle is a hundredth part as moving as the same spectacle seen with one's own eyes - yet the world is willing to let its son and its daughter and itself look at Titian's beast, but won't stand a description of it in words. Which shows that the world is not as consistent as it might be.

There are pictures of nude women which suggest no impure thought - I am well aware of that. I am not railing at such. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that Titian's Venus is very far from being one of that sort. Without any question it was painted for a bagnio and it was probably refused because it was a trifle too strong. In truth, it is too strong for any place but a public Art Gallery."

- Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880.

No further commentary.

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