Artful Sensuality


I went on a to D.C. last weekend to visit a friend and fellow art lover. She and I are fervent devotees of renaissance art (I am, after all, @renaissance 11 on Twitter) and plan trips to Italy around the best museums. Gazing at a Caravaggio gets me as excited as a teenage girl at a One Direction concert. Renaissance art technique is masterful with the usages of perspective and foreshortening, and to me the paintings are simply beautiful to behold. But let’s be honest, with all of those naked people prancing about in the paintings, renaissance art is also incredibly sensual. Michelangelo studied actual corpses to perfect his technique of painting and sculpting human anatomy. He was particularly adept in his portrayal of men and there is much speculation that he – and many of his contemporaries – were gay. But hey, in this modern world who really cares. What I like to like to focus on is the masterful representation and fluid beauty of his art. The painting of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is a prime example. I love the languid, sensual pose of the character and the way Michelangelo captures the innocence of the young Adam as he awaits the touch of God. Subject matter in Renaissance art is often found in four different buckets: saints, biblical interpretations, war scenes, and mythology. It’s this last bucket that I really love, because those Greek and Roman Gods and Goddess were randy young thangs. Take Zeus, for example. If medals were awarded, he’d take the gold in the pursuit of women, often with the side consequence of royally pissing off his wife, Jano. To escape her wrath, Zeus disguised himself in many forms so that she wouldn’t discover his cheatin’ ways. While  chasing after Leda, he turned himself into a swan, as depicted in the first painting above by Correggio, or this one by DaVinci: Or as a cloud, depicted here in this painting by Correggio: Of course, mythology also deals a lot with love and has two of the biggest stars representing it, meaning Venus and Cupid. Those two were not immune to love’s intoxication themselves. Venus’s relationship with Mars resulted in the birth of Cupid, after all, and later Venus fell passionately in love with Adonis. I like Titian’s depiction of this because I think it captures the lustful, loving gazes each give the other. I can really feel the emotion in this painting. Lastly, there’s young cupid. Frequently depicted as mischievous or even cruel, he eventually met his match with Psyche and married the goddess he loved. Although Francois Boucher lived a hundred years after the end of the Renaissance era, I like his portrayal of Cupid’s wedding to Psyche. Art in general has a beautiful, joyous sensuality to me that is matched only by the riveting words on the pages of a great romance. So if you’re in the mood to be swept away and want to shake things up a bit, spend some time looking at art. I guarantee you won’t regret it. Elizabeth

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