Learning to be Terse

This is not sexual revolution

Posted in Ethics, Movies and Television, Society by Croor Singh on January 11, 2013

The most expensive painting* ever sold is one of a naked woman asleep on a couch. The painting was made in 1995 by Lucian Freud and is of not the best-looking 51 year old woman. The painting sold for £17 million.

Painting naked women isn’t new. The Old Masters of the Renaissance (which may not really be a thing) made art out of women sans clothing. When I was looking for paintings by the Old Masters, one painting that came advertised as being erotic is that of Danae by Titian:

Danae by Titian

The story goes that Danae, a princess, was imprisoned by her father the king because her son would kill her father. Danae lets Zeus, the god, seduce her, fully aware of the consequences. Zeus appears as gold dust in this painting.

Okay, I confess that I am no art critic; I only have as much of a clue about whether a picture of a naked woman is art or pornography as anybody else. But it seems to me that the test for whether a painting/picture is art or pornography is who the “subject” is. Danae, in the painting above, isn’t naked for your benefit or mine; she doesn’t know we’re watching. More importantly, she doesn’t care.

Pornography exists to titillate its audience. This, as much as the perfect bodies, the contortionist body positions and the incredible sex, is a defining characteristic of pornography. In a pornographic version of waiting for Zeus, Danae would be trying to make the viewer imagine himself in Zeus’ place.

I point out all this in preface to a shocking documentary about the portrayal of women in Hindi movies called “No Country for Women”. Apparently, while I wasn’t looking, a de facto ban on actors so much as kissing on screen has gone away and been replaced by what I can only call free licence to show pornography.

So why is this access to pornography bad? We should measure a society’s progress by its acceptance of pornography, right?

Young men in this society apparently get their ideas about social interaction with the other sex not from, you know, social interaction but from the movies. This is amply demonstrated in the documentary (‘arey, woh Rakhi Sawant jaise skirt pehen ke ayegi to hum usey chedenge nahin to aur kya karenge?). Teaching men that women who dress well, or have certain body types, or go out at night are asking for attention is a recipe for disaster. And yet we see this in scene after scene.

I am all for promiscuity. I want women to break free of the shackles of societally imposed “modesty”. I am also for easier access to pornography. But let’s please label it as such, hmm?

*Correction: This is not the most expensive painting ever sold. This is the most expensive painting of a living artist ever sold. HT: Jayavel, who tells me even this may no longer be true.

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4 Responses

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  1. artmoscow said, on January 12, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    It is Richter, The most expensive living artist )
    You may not be right about Danae (she’s very well conscious about the viewer, and Titian made the series specifically to please the eye of monarchs / Zeuses of the time), but you are very right about movies shaping the perception that women accessibility is a function of their clothing and body form )

  2. Croor Singh said, on January 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Hey ArtMoscow.

    I read that the Danae paintings were commissioned by a king. But I looked at the way her body’s turned away from the viewer, the way the artist shows her body’s lines: not some doll but a real person. Maybe I read the signals wrong, or these things have changed over time. You’re the expert. Thanks!

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  4. Françoise said, on January 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Among the many depictions of sex in Western art, depictions of sexually active are literally excluded. Throughout the classical period, and to the extent that it was generally commissioned works, sex, male or female, was generally not shown if it is hidden, concealed, covered by a leaf, a drape, a downside. He was then shown more freely, always at rest, discreet penis naked men in statuary, female sketched, clean or erased any hair. The hair is obviously outside of a posted sign libido.


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