View Full Version : Titian Venus inspires novel
21st February 2006, 16:32
Here's a news item that I think many readers of this forum will appreciate. A British author has just released a new novel in which the main character is directly inspired by one of Titian's most famous paintings, his full-figured Venus of Urbino:
I am really taken with the idea that one of the great beauties of Western art -- a plus-size beauty, and not a "tanorexic" modern celebrity -- was the inspiration for the story.
And I especially like the fact that it was the vanity of this curvaceous Venus that prompted the author to feature her as the courtesan-heroine of her novel:
There's such a confidence to her. And then I thought, "That's the character I want to write about." Suddenly she was not a painting, she was a novel.
According to this article, the author was not serving some sort of political agenda with this character, and in fact, it sounds like she is going against the grain of modern sensibilities -- which is wonderful:
[Courtesans] were not early feminists, they really had to work hard to keep their positions and it was every woman for themselves, so there's no sisterhood here. They have to be beautiful, they have to be vain, they have to be smart, they have to be quite self-preoccupied and they just have to be really out there to get what they can get. And that's...the makings of a quite adventurous, interesting woman.
I don't know if I'll ever actually read the novel (I would be so disappointed if it fell short of expectations). But at least it sounds like the author has finally created the kind of full-figured femme fatale that readers of this forum (myself included) have been hoping for...
22nd February 2006, 01:52
<br>Could there possibly be a better indication that the Aesthetic Restoration is taking hold than the fact that the goddess Venus--the Classical deity of all things wonderful (beauty, love, and indulgence)--has once again become a muse for artistic creation, as she was throughout Western history, right up until the 20th century?
And this writer of this <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400063817/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">novel</a> could not possibly have chosen a better image of the goddess than Titian's <i>Venus of Urbino</i> (c.1538), seen below, which is on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Not only does this painting have a long tradition of inspiring creative artistry, but it has even earned a special significance in the cause of size celebration. The second issue of <i>Mode</i> magazine, from Summer 1997, included an article written by Laura Fraser which featured the following observation:<p><blockquote><i>"Being plump has had a sexy resonance through the ages. You have only to stroll through the great museums of the world to see that softness, plumpness, and curves are what female sexuality is all about. . . . <strong>The direct gaze of Titian's round-tummied, rosy-thighed Venus shows she knew exactly how delightful she was</strong>."</i> (p.75-76)</blockquote><p>She is absolutely right. The very same intoxicating qualities that the author of the above novel ascribes to her heroine are all evident in Titian's breathtaking Venus. She is indeed "beautiful," "vain," and "self-preoccupied"--and thus, utterly irresistible. And Titian clearly indicates that his Venus finds herself so alluring <i>because</i> she is "round-tummied"--not despite this fact.
Indeed, it is fair to say that if Titian's ideal had remained the dominant conception of feminine beauty into the present day, that modern women would feel just as "delightful" about being "round-tummied" as their predecessors did, throughout the centuries.
It is also highly significant that this writer had to find her source of inspiration for creating a vibrant and exciting full-figured character in the past, since no such images are to be found in the present (apart from those of plus-size models). Let us hope that by rediscovering the physical and character traits of the voluptuous goddesses of yesteryear, such captivating personalities will reappear in the art and culture of today. Since our modern world has become so creatively barren, where better to turn for inspiration than to the bountiful cultures of Western history?
Titian's <i>Venus of Urbino</i>--the once-and-future ideal of feminine beauty:<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/titian/titian04.jpg"></center><p>- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/titian.htm" target="_blank">More works by this master of the High Renaissance</a>
23rd February 2006, 11:32
I adore Titian's work, and I respond to his Venus canvasses in particular. They create a MODE-like feeling of relaxation and idyllic pleasure. No wonder the author was inspired by this painting in particular. In it, Titian's Venus has such an expression of self-assurance that it would be a sacrilege to want her to be any less luscious than she is. One has the feeling that she would laugh in anyone's face who tried to tell her to starve, or to sentence herself to exercise-torture. "I'm quite happy being curvy and beautiful, thank you very much," she would probably say in response.
This painting justified modern slogans like "Live life deliciously," and "Sexy girls have dessert," over four hundred years before anyone thought of them. It's so liberating to think that in healthier times, well-fed beauties like this Venus were the Paris Hiltons of their day - except that in addition to being pampered and vain (in a good way), they also had a profound cultural significance.
There's one other aspect of this novel, as mentioned in the article, which appeals to me:
In the Company of the Courtesan is no Kama Sutra - there's no sex in it at all. That's partly because Buchino is never invited into Fiammetta's bedroom. But it is also deliberate.
"Books about courtesans, everybody expects that there will be sex," says Dunant. "How boring has sex now become to write about?"
That's so true! Modern culture has so thoroughly vulgarized and debased human relationships that it's robbed them of any magic or mystery, and reduced love to a mere physical act - nothing but biology. Or zoology.
Besides giving us more exciting curvy characters, I hope the book also prompts other writers to bring back the art of suggestion, of coyness, of veiled flirtation and secret allure. What is tastefully hinted at is usually much more engaging than what is described in graphic detail.
3rd March 2006, 06:09
I'm new to these fine pages and am very refreshed by everyone's attitude.
The High Renaissance is a fabulous era for art and creativity. I loved studying it at school and then later off on my own. The concept that the ideal female form at that time was full figured with small hands and small feet is so very far from our contemporary "ideals" but so very close to the way I and many women in the world actually look! It's sad that a society in retrospect is usually purely defined and described by the photographers and journalists of the time...people who are "looking to be different". And you know why our present day society is portrayed as "loving the skinnies"? It's because a small pocket of people have attempted to break away from what society as a whole believes to be truly beautiful (and has done for centuries)...curvaceous women. It's unfortunate that this small pocket of people are the ones with the high media connections. Such a twisted need to impose their own opinion (but you know, I don't think it's actually an opinion...rather just a need to "rebel").
I, personally can't wait to read this book. It sounds fabulous! I simply hope that if it's picked up by Hollywood to be made into a film, they don't cast any faux-plus actresses in the title roll (Scarlett Johansen, Drew Barrymore etc...), women who are still no bigger than a UK size 8! But this leads into a whole other debate.
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