Saturday, 26 September 2009
Virgins, pervs and chubby baby angels.
Years back, at a lecture in art history, I was mesmerized in learning that religious art often hid secrets of erotic and pornographic nature. This professor talked to us about paedophilia, prostitution and homosexuality. I want to share what she inspired me to further investigate. Sadly, this is a massive subject, multi layered, so I can only scratch the surface for you. There will be no split beavers or cum shoots, but hopefully I can change your mind about the virgin prudes, and the chubby baby angels.
Let's start it off with the famous Mary Magdalene. The controversy surrounding her is still going on. Most seem to agree it was sin and sexuality that led to her dodgy reputation as a whore. Magdalene is portrayed with fiery red hair, often not covered like decent women of that time should be. Red hair is a symbol of desires of the flesh, and free flowing hair is a symbol of a untamed woman, someone who goes against society's rules on morality. But most important of all is the jar of ointment. A common symbol of prostitution in art. The prostitute would carry the jar with them to clients and used the ointment in their work. Magdalene is also often portrayed with this jar, even as she is repenting her sins, we can see her with her voluptuous breasts revealed, her free flowing red hair, and the jar beside her.
A woman with a jar, vase , pot or chalice is a known symbol in art all the way back to Sumerian times. The opening of the jar can be viewed as opening the Pandora's box, or as the exposing of female sexuality and female powers. A woman with a jar understands how to control fertility ( presumably this symbol dates back to agricultural revolution when jar makers allowed women to store seeds and foodstuffs)
The virgin Mary often has her breast revealed, either shown breastfeeding baby Jesus or simply just holding baby Jesus in her arms. And when Mary is not breastfeeding baby Jesus, the revealed breast becomes obviously erotic. Mind you, there are several portraits of Mary breastfeeding Jesus, even with a facial expression of lust. Often the face of Baby Jesus has adult features, voluptuous curves or suggestive positioning of his body, and this reinforces the erotic content. (Sounds perverse? The sexual portrayal of children was not found objectionable until at least the late 18th century.) You have to realize that was no mass media, except through the church, and most of what was written down was religious texts, and the people who could afford to pay the famous painters, could not jeopardize their reputation. This is why the porn of those days were hidden in layers of symbols, mysticism and religious imagery. Using the golden ratio and also drawing up the lines following the eyes of angels gazing at them, the lines surprisingly often ends up at Mary's nipple, or Jesus' penis. ( note: the level of erotic content exploded once art matured from the more iconic art of the medieval period into the renaissance of modern Europe)
Although the painting is showing a religious setting, the painter created a play if you will, using various symbols, compositions, colors, expressions and using the light to emphasise specific body parts. And what can be more alluring than combining Christianity, sin and sexuality? The artists tapped into the suppressed sexuality and the fear of hell in the audience: "I can't look, but I can't look away" As long as the young man was staring at the virgin Mary's erect nipple, he felt safe from the devils claws. It was an innocent setting. Who were the models for the paintings of Magdalene? Various courtesans, also women of high standard had no issues with posing nude, though always under pseudonyms of various mythological names such as Magdalene, Pandora and Venus.
(Exception: the wonderful Nell Gwynn but that is another entry.)
The best example of erotic art can be found in "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa" by Gianlorenzo Bernini. At first glance you see a rather typical setting of a woman draped, head tilted back, and an seraph standing over her with a spear. This sculpture how ever, is much more complex. Let me introduce you to Saint Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish mystic and the founder of Discalced Carmelites. Teresa of Ávila had from early age been searching for a deeper meaning in life. She ran away from home aged 7 looking for martyrdom, and at 20 she joined the Incarnation of the Carmelites. She fell ill, and during her illness she had overpowering religious experiences of religious ecstasy, using various mystical ascetic works such as Tercer abecedario espiritual, Tractatus de oratione et meditatione and possibly the Spiritual Exercises by the legendary St. Ignatius of Loyola.
She became obsessed with the matters of sin and the Divine, and began experimenting in self torture and mortification of the flesh. In 1559 she has her first vision of Christ. He presented him self in full bodily form and these visions lasted for 2 years. And it was at this time in her life she has a vision of a seraph driving a golden lance repeatedly through hear heart, causing her tremendous spiritual and physical pain. "I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.."
Sounds like she was getting off to me. This experience inspired her to live her life as the suffering Jesus under the motto: Lord, either let me suffer or let me die.
This is the story behind the sculpture and I wanted to show you the extraordinary facial expressions on both the seraph and on Teresa. The spear is phallic, her face is orgasmic and the seraph is obviously thinking: "Who's yo' daddy, biatch".
Nunsploitation films are not all taken out of the blue after all. "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa" is a magnificent piece of art, the craftsmanship is outstanding, but I love it the most for it's erotic and multi layered secrets.
Let me end it all with gay porn. How fitting is that? A perfect example is the numerous painting of St.Sebastian, martyr and officer. He refused to sacrifice to the roman gods as he was a devout christian, and was sent to prison. In prison he converted numerous people to Christianity, and was later sentenced to death for betrayal by his former commander in chief. He was tied to a pole his body was pierced by multiple arrows. He survives but is later killed by the same man. St. Sebastian is a well known gay icon. All though very little information points us in this direction. Both Oscar Wilde and Yukio Mishima has reinforced this in their art and literature. This painting of St.Sebastian by Guido Renis shows us why so many view him as a homo erotic icon. Homosexuality was common in north Italy in the mid 1600, and St.Sebastian also had a homo erotic appeal all though the medieval ages. His pelvic is painfully pressed forward, his face slurred by the orgasm, his hips round and sultry, his pale skin repeatedly penetrated by phallic arrows, his submissive feminine arms tied up in bondage.
C'mon now...don't tell me that dude doesn't like the dick.
I could go on and on, there are so many sexy settings in the world of art. And to me this art are so much more erotic and interesting than contemporary provocative art. There are so much history, so much to learn hidden in the layers. The ruby red lips, the coy eyes, the voluptuous baby angels, the erect nipples and the free flowing hair desperately trying to cover up flesh bursting with lust and desire. The mystique lies in the silence of the faces. It's all up to you to explore them all, to experience the forbidden throbbing caused by sexual arousal, shared by the thousands throughout time.