Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Great Art Taboo

Michelangelo - David (1501-4) and Jules LeFebvre - Truth (1879)It strikes me that the fuss over Nan Goldin's photo of Klara and Edda belly-dancing isn't merely Brit. paranoia over child abuse. That photo breaks the greatest taboo in European art: not depicting female genitals. Male genitals are okay, providing the penis is limp. In this graphic I've shown the most famous male genitals in the world, those of Michelangelo's David, complete with beautifully stylized pudic hair (I do mean pudic, not pubic). To the right I've shown Jules LeFebvre's Truth (ironic title for a visual lie) as a typical treatment of female nudity. Not only does it lack hair, but also any hint of vulva. The artist has given his subject a flesh bikini. You'll find this prudish convention again and again in European art. Even Gustav Klimt obeyed the taboo in Allegory of Sculpture. Isn't it time we grew up?


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