Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Select History behind the Playboy Reclining Pose

We can trace Playboy Playmate Miss June 1975 Azizi Johari's pose back to Giorgione's Venus 1510 and progress on through to Falero's La Favorite 1880. Specifically, we are looking at oil paintings in the European tradition of reclining women in the nude.

Giorgione's Venus (Italian 1510)

Complete contrast to Venus of Urbino. Venus turns her face, eyes closed. She is the ideal image of a woman and her beauty. She has a demure beauty that is more of a male fantasy as compared to Venus of Urbino. Giorgione's Venus is unattainable as demonstrated by her position in the painting (location in middle of a meadow, far from the village). She is an idealistic image.

Venus of Urbino (Italian 1538)

This Venus is the more realistic portrayal of a woman. She is in a bed, looking directly at the viewer, with her hand provocatively placed in the center, similarly to that of Giorgione's Venus. Her awareness of the viewer is where the eroticism and sensuality comes from. Her perfect beauty, and more attainability envelopes the viewer in eroticism. She celebrates human eroticism, and the connection between the divine (her beauty) and the real (her position and background).

Grande Odalisque (French 1814)

Academic art continues this European tradition, here we see neoclassicism Ingres' Grande Odalisque. Her elongated pose is impossible. She is idealized with perfect contours, smoothed out skin tone, glossy shadow. Her sensuality is contained and controlled. She is presented to the male viewer as an object of fascination a sight: Ingres' exotic fantasy of oriental beauty illustrated in this Turkish harem concubine.

Birth of Venus (French 1863)

This is also an erotic depiction of Venus. She is extremely shapely, and even exaggerated to some extent. She has an unashamed pose and slight gaze. Her gaze is what is most provocative about this piece. The ambiguity of her eyes (they look closed, but are open looking directly at the viewer). Her "sleeping" gaze, and her nudity increase the sensuality for the viewer.

Olympia (French 1863)

Manet is not following the rules. You can appreciate the art form of this nude. You can see his independent brush strokes in the bedding, nothing perfect, nothing smoothed out and nothing glossy. She owns and claims her sexual being-sitting confidently upright with authority in control of her sexuality. She isn't watching herself being looked at. She's looking at the customer who just came into the room.

La Favorite (Spanish 1880)

Youthful beauty. Demure beauty. She maintains a bashful gaze, while looking away. Her bashful position, when turned horizontally, reflects the same positioning as the other paintings. She is merely standing in an awkward, unnatural pose, while still maintaining her eroticism.

Playboy Playmate Azizi Johari (American 1975)

Youthful and unabashed beauty. Her gaze is to the side but direct like Olympia. Her position reflects the same as seen in the previous paintings; however, her legs are not touching or crossed. Her hand is brushing her hair away which seems contrived. The photograph is of a real woman, and she is an unobtainable fantasy.

Azizi Johari is our modern day example from Roger Ebert's blog He could not place the entire image of Ms. Johari even as a thumbnail because it would not be suitable for work for some readers. So instead he cropped her body only to show her face to make it suitable for work. So our question to the class is why are the paintings of nude women suitable for work and photographs of nude women in publications such as Playboy not suitable for work?

by Group I: Candice Chapman and April Evangelista

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