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Question completely out of left field - Melodramatic, corsetted mistress of the obscure
October 29th, 2008
10:11 am

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Question completely out of left field
Or left in a field.

Or something.


Anyway, I picked up this little (5 x 5 x 2 in. heh.) book full of all sorts of pretty pictures of oil paintings from, like, 1500s to 1800s or so. But one picture made me notice something. I mean, I am used to seeing women with lengths of cloth falling off them, while clinging to their curves a la Catwoman and her navel. I tend to do a O.o to the breasts, but I figure maybe it's a model (or lack thereof) issue.

BUT. This particular picture was of Moses defending the daughters of J.... J... shoot, can't remember which J name that was. Jethro? Hrmph. Well, both Moses (oh, now I am questioning if it was even Moses. I don't remember the story at all) and the maurading shephards are pretty much naked and the genitals are on conspicuous display.

But, can anyone tell me why those obvious genitals are so very, very SMALL? I mean, really, BABIES have bigger genitals. Is the artist trying to flatter every male that looks at the picture, or something? If they were minimized to make them less of a focal point, why make them visible at all?

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[User Picture]
From:clevermanka
Date:October 29th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
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Is it this painting?

Part of it may be that the shepherds, being non-Jews, weren't circumcised. Penises with the foreskin still intact appear smaller when flaccid. I've noticed this a lot in sculpture and paintings. Yay (?) for Art History classes. It's not particular to this painting, although the ones in that one really are small! But yeah, common.

Personally, I think it's because penises are really hard to draw so the artists look a shortcut. =D

BTW, you're right, it was the daughters of Jethro. Gold star for you!

Edited at 2008-10-29 03:42 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
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That painting exactly! Yay for YOU! It's just so strange to show the genitals, then minimize them like that.
[User Picture]
From:clevermanka
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Artists are weird.

I'd love to see someone chime in with a real answer to this, though. It's one of those things I just took for granted in my classes.
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From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and the moustaches! Hee! The moustaches.
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From:clevermanka
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
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You know, I just noticed something...(I'm not familiar with this painting). That's gotta be Moses in the middle, there. Right? So my theory doesn't work. Hm.

Guess I'm going with "artists are weird."
[User Picture]
From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
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The little blurb with the painting says Moses is the one with the red cape. But that doesn't actually make any sense with what the figures seem to be doing.
[User Picture]
From:clevermanka
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Weird.
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From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
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I would have to find it again in the book, unless CR's link can lead to that info.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:clevermanka
Date:October 29th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
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The Renaissance had several different styles that went in and out of vogue, and styles varied by region as well. This is a very Mannerist style, and I can see some possible influence by Michaelangelo. Like I said, I'm not familiar with this artist or piece...my one required Renaissance art class was on Southern Baroque, which is much more to my taste.

[User Picture]
From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
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The link comes through! 1523-24
(Deleted comment)
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[User Picture]
From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Maybe it's a perspective thing.
(Deleted comment)
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From:silverfae
Date:October 29th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Maybe they were all on steroids.
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From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Hee!
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From:radcliffe
Date:October 29th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh the nudity is usually odd. I heard in class that it was because of the time- it was a time when modeling was so restricted and scandalous that artists would have big challenges. You will also notice no body hair in a lot of the paintings. So, were the artists using the proportions of a child? The breasts are always so wrong- it is like taking a male figure and putting something globe-like on them. Were they using only male models? And if only male models, and they were male artists, why were they will so odd?

I personally think that in a time when showing nude figures was so racy, that they did their best- both to use nude figures (by choosing classic/biblical settings) and at the same time to emotionally distance the viewer from overt sexuality. There are a few paintings done about 100+ years forward from that point of the artist's mistress, for example, that show a sensual nude- and at the time it was an outrage.
[User Picture]
From:solan_t
Date:October 29th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I have often been rather confused by the seeming lack of modeling when they seemed to like to paint nudes so much.

I suppose I can see how the nudity was shocking enough, without being anatomically correct about the genitalia.

Edited at 2008-10-29 06:04 pm (UTC)
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From:geekmom
Date:October 29th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
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They did use male models for a lot of female nudes. And they did use fairies, nymphs, mythology, and whatnot as an excuse to paint porn, especially when it was ok to use actual female models again. Bouguereau? Porn.



Manet was his contemporary, and when he painted Olympia for the Salon, they thought it was the most vulgar thing ever. I mean, she's got shoes on and she's looking at the viewer. The horrors!

[User Picture]
From:geekmom
Date:October 29th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
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I don't think they're that horribly off. No pubes make the area less defined. One figure is lying at an angle, so the testicles are hidden, and the other is in action and/or in the cold, so the testicles aren't fully dangling. Compare to David, which is fairly well proportioned (other than enlarged hands).

And how I love this discussion of male genitalia in classical art. Hee!
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From:rabid_bookwyrm
Date:October 30th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC)
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Small male genitalia was something the Greeks favored, so it's at least possible that's an origin.
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