Sunday, August 18, 2013

Desire in old art.

Candace Nirvana - 081813 - SideB
If you are reading this blog, you probably know a bit about desire and lust.  For me, these things are two of the few life forces making my existence meaningful (throw in love, loyalty, and compassion for a few more).  While  our art we share here is full of lust and desire, we are just travelers along a very long artistic path that have conveyed these needs and emotions through creative representations.

I took an art appreciation class back a few decades ago when I was in my early twenties, but was too young to learn and absorb the meaning of the great works.  A few years ago I took it again from a great professor.  In it, we explored western art from the Gothic period to contemporary art.  I was astounded to see how much hot erotic art was made back 500 years ago.

Among many of the pieces that we studied with subtle or obvious erotic content, one master sculptor's work stood above the others, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (I highly recommend reading the linked Wikipedia entry about him and seeing more of his art).  Many of statues have a deep sensuality and erotic richness that still astounds many today.

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa - Bernini - SideB
In 2011, I went to Rome for work and had a few days to explore on my own.  I set aside a a dark and rainy day to find as many of his statues as possible.  I first saw his infamous (with much promotion in Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons) The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.  There is obvious desire and lust with the expression on Teresa's face, but the subtle details of her arched right foot and how her big toe is clenched on her left foot leaves such great, but subtle hints to her "ecstasy*".  While I found that statue erotic, it was the next Bernini work that took my breath away.

Much like the The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni is hidden away in small Catholic chapel on a side street of Rome.  Ludovica is different from Teresa in that she is no where near as famous as her sister statue, but has her own deep erotic message.

Maybe it was the darkness of the cloudy, cold, rainy January day, but I felt the quiet desire and lust of Ludovica so powerful.  I know the story of the sculpture is of her ecstasy at her death, but the erotic quietness spoke to me.  Both Teresa and Ludovica make me wonder about orgasm and whether it brings us closer to a spiritual world.  They both also hint at our previously covered topic on orgasm and the Le petite mort, or the little death.

The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni- Bernini - SideB
I know art history can be boring and I have a suggestion for making it much more interesting.  Think of
The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni- Bernini - SideB
themes you find important in the art you like now.  You may seek representations of the human condition, war, sex, death, aging, etc., in the art you enjoy.  I challenge you to take those same themes and try to find how they have been represented in art of all ages.  You may be shocked to find that these themes are not just contemporary issues and topics, but age old things that humanity has always put in to artistic creations.  For me, who knew that a great sculptor from the 1600s could so perfectly capture women in ecstasy from a piece of marble.  Bravo, Bernini.  Bravo.

Another Ecstacy- Artist unknown - SideB
* Note - I do know that the traditional religious definition of ecstasy is very different than sexual ecstasy.  


  1. Thanks for mentioning Dan Brown. He draws much criticism, but I love his work and the way he educates his readers about cultural history. I like when an author doesn't dumb down his/her work and challenges the readers. Brava to you for doing the same on your blog.

  2. Derek - I agree that Dan Brown gets a lot of unfair criticism. I enjoyed his books for what I learned from them. Thanks! - SB

  3. I wish I had something eloquent to add here but I have to admit when it comes to art appreciation I am sadly lacking;)
    But from classic literature, there is plenty of the erotic that borders on the bawdy
    We all know about the Canterbury tales but the short stories of Boccaccio's the decameron ( ten days of them stories each) is a much better read
    That being said I will research and try to get my high brow activities beyond scotch! Lol


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