Monday, December 11, 2017

Chris The Guide on Whatevr Fanzine #4: Curvy Rubens

Curvy Rubens by Chris The Guide

From whatevrfanzine nr.4
Whoever decided to buy Whatevr #4, will certainly want to browse through it calmly, without being noticed too much though, that’s “not done”. Whatever is certainly not a novel or an essay, you don't need to lock yourself up in your study room. 

Reading it in the underground could be perfect, but the paper size is too big and the passenger next to you might get annoyed when hit by your elbow. Perhaps a table in a coffee shop, but even there, a failure, the magazine is printed on A3 size, too big, the pleasure of browsing is denied again, it’s either Whatevr or the bad “caffé macciato” you just ordered.  No, no way, you need peace, but not at home, for heaven's sake, no.  The armchair is for a novel, or for a nap. Besides, we are talking about the new issue, brand new, and novelties need to be read immediately to breathe the new trends instantly.

I have a better idea: since this new Whatevr has a very specific topic namely food, food and the body, and the curvy beauty, perhaps a filthy trattoria is the place to go. In this case though, I recommend just fatty food, no vegan, please. If this suggestion is too obvious I can give you yet another tip, fancier, unexpected, very fanzine.
For those lucky enough to live in or travel to Paris or London (and in both cities, the magazine is widely available) I know the perfect place:  it is a picture gallery, the Baroque section, more precisely the rooms dedicated to the Prince of European painting of the 17th century: Peter Paul Rubens, who was born in Siegen on 28 June 1577 and died in Antwerp on 30 May 1640.
For Parisians the target is Musée du Louvre, Richelieu wing, second floor, room 18, Galerie Médicis.
For Londoners, the National Gallery (no excuse for Brits: free of charge), level 2, room 18.

Galerie Médicis, Louvre, Paris

There might be a few tourists hanging around in the room, maybe a sleepy visitor or a noisy school group, but large masses will skip these halls. Now, first flip through the pages of Whatevr #4, take a quick read of the articles, look at the pics, “hmmm, so these are the latest trends in fashion…” and then you will be ready to concentrate on Rubens. Ah, do not forget to make your selfie with the magazine in hand and the paintings in the background, that’s a must!
In the "Galerie" you will notice the gigantic paintings representing Maria de ' Medici, wife of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII, both Kings of France, painted by the Flemish artist for the Palais de Luxembourg. Focus on one particular painting: The Arrival of Marie de ' Medici at Marseilles, I add, to join her new husband married by proxy in Florence a few months before. The work is impressive, the elegant Queen strides on a crimson drape adorning the bridge of the ship from which she is finally reaching her new home, her new reign. Now look down: three nude female figures of jubilant super-dynamic divinities appear like bitts ensuring the mooring line. Colossal nudities, beautiful and wonderfully abundant. Here are the nymphs, ideal of beauty and sensuality, glorifying the Queen of France by exposing their voluptuous nudity with total grace.

For those who live across the Channel, in London, well, the target is the National Gallery. Entering room 18 on the second floor, you’ll find The Judgement of Paris, particularly the version of 1632-35. The myth is famous, it’s the casus belli par excellence. Paris, Prince of Troy, must elect the most beautiful goddess of the Olympus. The three beautiful divas get naked to show their grace to the lucky judge. Venus will triumph, and the other two, Minerva and Juno, won’t take it so well. To thank the young judge for his vote Venus will help Paris to seduce and kidnap Helen, Queen of Sparta. Obviously, her husband Menelaus will not be too happy and it will be war, the Trojan war, the most extraordinary plot of the history of European literature.

Now, after having seen one of the two paintings. London or Paris, it does not matter, I am pretty positive that you are thinking something like “those nudes are too fleshy, too fat, it is an ode to cellulite rather than to beauty. Canon of Greek beauty? No way, those goddesses really need a good gym session.”
This might be true but keep anyway in mind that you are observing a painting by one of the greatest masters of all times, a true connoisseur of beauty: Sir Rubens.
The Olympic grace and beauty of those goddesses is shown in Rubens’ way (“Rubenesque”), with his traditional unsettling effect, powerful and dramatic, without hiding anything, and with plenty of colors and shapes.
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt - the scholar who invented the word Renaissance - so a man who knew his stuff pretty well - wrote that the art of Rubens would make the audience "wrapped and delivered by a giant wave, making it unable to carry out clear analysis". I find this fully true; when I look at Rubens’ paintings, I am always blown away, I never really know where to start looking. His naked buttocks of goddesses are very vigorous, plump and fleshy, maybe excessively, and undoubtedly extra-large, overweight. They have not much in common with the waif-like athletic bodies presently cluttering the media. We’ve got to be fair, plenty of cellulite, soft and plump thighs, quivering flesh, but also, I must say, a lot of exploding sensuality.
It is this beauty? Maybe yes, maybe no, but many people liked it and many are still pleased with it.
According to the painter Sir Rubens from Antwerp, the answer is certainly yes, and personally, I fully agree.
The fact that the ancient canon of beauty was different from the current one, is very well known and widely debated but that the Prince of Baroque painting saw that canon in such an abundance of “meat”, may be surprising.
The question of course is: why? There might not be an answer but certainly the topic is juicy and I am sure that browsing Whatevr in Rubens’ company may give you some true satisfaction.
Anyway, let’s try. Peter Paul Rubens is universally recognized as the greatest European painter of the 17th century. He was an indefatigable artist, an unsurpassed colorist, a creator of a brand and of a style appreciated by all European courts. He was a pleasant and intelligent man as well, enough to act as the confidant and diplomat for kings and princes, living in a century in which through art you could resolve wars and alliances, weddings and coronations. As a young man Rubens made a very long journey to Italy, basing his artistic education on the solid foundations of the Classical and Renaissance art as well as on his own Nordic tradition. His knowledge of ancient art and his brilliant understanding of the modern movements, together with every lack of fear for innovation, made him the perfect painter, the number one on the market.
In his tome De Imitatione Statuarum - About the Imitation of Ancient Statues - Rubens wrote: “it is necessary to follow the example of the antique sculptors, replacing however the stone of the statues with the living flesh”.  He really believed that painters could be capable of capturing the qualities of the flesh but they had to avoid imitating the antiques, avoid imitating the material character of stone.
It is indeed true that his ideal of beauty derives from the Classics and he was certainly a great connoisseur of it. Furthermore, if we look at the Classical and Hellenistic art, curves of female bodies were far more pronounced than in our modern aesthetic ideal “skinny-size-zero”. But again, Rubens goes much further, he shows cellulite, “love handles”, softness. His female nudes once received and still do receive criticism, they are considered ugly, unhealthy, exaggerated. But at the same time those nudes are considered powerfully sensual as well.
At the National Gallery, London, in the room dedicated to Rubens, the no. 18, we can admire another panel that he painted in 1609-1610: Samson and Delilah. The story is well-known, the super sensual blonde Delilah seduces the poor hero Samson and gives him a tricky haircut, thus erasing his miraculous strength.

The traitor has a body both sensual and extra-large, she is broad-shouldered and muscular, has a rounded healthy face and bountiful soft breasts, almost saggy. Nonetheless, her sensual female beauty has a sex drive that most of modern erotic art has not. A real hormonal explosion, a sex bomb.
Tomaso Montanari, an well-known expert in Italian Baroque art, describing the power of Rubens’ paintings notices a "new art rhetoric, based on movement and color and a tool to build a strong emotional empathy with the viewer."
This is the key, I think: empathy. The art of Rubens is empathetic, his bodies are empathetic, emotionally powerful and reassuring.
Rubens is universally recognized as the greatest Baroque painter. The word “Baroque”, originally Portuguese, wanted to describe an irregular pearl. In a generic sense therefore baroque means bizarre, whimsical, and the term was used in contrast to Classicism, so with a negative value.
Baroque art is in fact surprising, exuberant, extravagant, spectacular and eye-catching. It is theatre, colors, music, movement, drama. This is what we find in Rubens, exuberant forms, abundant curves, living flesh.
Therefore, in conclusion, I think that in Rubens as well as in our modern world, abundance is empathy.
Browsing Whatevr in front of Rubens’ art sounds to me as quite a surprising combination.

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Christiaan Santini, Rome, Italy / - Tour Designer, Tour Guide, Tour Manager / Official Tour Guide license issued by the Regional Administration of Rome (nr. 4545) / p.iva: 12307641006 / c.f.: sntcrs79e19h501o / Nationality: Italian-Dutch

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