Bohemian Ifs and Classical Butts at the Hermitage

I had mentioned in my previous post of how we had spent a day at the Hermitage Museum and I wanted to share the pictures with you. It was a day of contrasts: the classical beauties in the museum alongside the rusted beauties on the canals. Each unique in their own way.

I was hesitant to permit myself to enjoy the Classic Beauties. Artists, Italy and the Esthetic Ideals of the 18th Century exhibit. I understand that it refers to a period, a type of art, in which certain aesthetics prevailed, and these can then be compared to others.

However, the idea of perfection, of flawlessness, alabaster magnificence is so contrived. I like cracks, dents, jagged and uneven surfaces. To be unfinished or broken is beautiful in my eyes. That is my kind of perfect. Human in every way, not even trying to be celestial. Having said that and still holding on to my beliefs, I could not help but admire the craftsmanship that went into carving a perfect buttock out of pure stone.

The Hermitage curates their exhibits with flair and confidence. It takes a bold curator to place these smooth marble ideals next to ITE Art | Finnish collection Ammann: “Intriguing, unpolished art by people with extraordinary backgrounds.” It works. The two dissimilar displays bring out their best in contrast just the way the bitterness of a good coffee enhances the sweetness of a chocolate cake.

Both shows are on till January 2019 and are also recommended in the Dutch News things to do this October, cheekily described as: “perfect tits and bums.”

A sampler of what you will learn:

  1. Athletes exercised naked in the open-air sports school or ‘gymnasiums.’ That’s the origin of our words ‘gymnastics’ (physical exercise) and ‘gymnasium’ (sports hall or school). They come from the Greek word gymnos (naked).
  2. In classical sculpture, men are usually shown in the nude. The Ancient Greek associated nudity with heroism, triumph and moral excellence. Nudity was about beauty; the relatively small genitals show that it wasn’t about sexuality. A small penis was a symbol of perfect self-control. [Though there was no apparent symbolic reason why women were shown naked, perhaps (here of course I am assuming) no further metaphor was and is needed for pristinely rounded breasts. Also, in regards to the small genitalia mentioned there was no reference implicitly made towards Full Disclosure (2018)].
  3. In Christian Art, nudity was regarded as sinful, although saints were sometimes depicted half-naked. Their nudity symbolised their spiritual purity. Complete nudity was too much. Even Adam and Eve were rarely without a fig leaf, even if the Bible described them as walking around naked in the Garden of Eden.



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