Saturday, September 17, 2011

Porn Through the Ages

Today, I perused the sections of The Art Institute that I otherwise visit: medieval, Renaissance, etc. Europe up until the mid-1800's. A particular painting from 1609 caught my eye, The Capture of Samson by Peter Paul Rubens:



http://www.peterpaulrubens.org/The-Capture-of-Samson.jpg

Mostly because it was a preliminary sketch, this piece stood out. Intense motion, sharp contrasts, tension, etc. I don't typically get a lot out of mythological scenes, but the raw eroticism of this slapped me in the face.

In high school, I took Latin and absolutely loved it. My favorite teacher, Mr. Mathers, had a print of this painting, Danae by Titian, up in his classroom:



http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Titian_Danae_1545.jpg

At first, my classmates and I saw this and thought "another old-ass painting these old people like. How boring." When we learned the myth of Danae, who was impregnated by Zeus' gold rain (hurr), this painting took on new meaning. "Mr. Mathers, this painting is...well...PORNOGRAPHIC!" He just smiled and nodded, "yep!"

Titian's painting has much less tension, excitement, and overall feeling in his painting (although Zeus looks like he's having a great time!), but both that and Rubens' emphasize that the erotic has always existed. Before XTube, before DVD, before VHS, before movie theaters, before private printing - there was painting. Even highly oppressive societies have had some outlet for the erotic, although it has been well-hidden in mythology and classical artwork.

You'd think that after all these centuries of undulating bodies, people would learn that our sexuality isn't going away.

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