Saturday, February 24, 2007

All the young dudes

One of my favorite internet interlocutors has proposed that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is meaningless because (among other things) there are all these nude figures (the 20 "ignudi") that have no iconographic function.

But isn't a handsome young dude function enough ?

Why are these cute guys lounging around with all their clothes off ?

They all have nice, healthy, strong looking bodies -- but they don't seem to be the bodies of workers, athletes, or soldiers.

What could they be -- other than lovers ?

Doesn't this one feel a bit shy and self conscious ?

These are not the slutty boys of the bath house -- they have some self respect

And they all feel dynamic -- that's how M. makes a figure -- as a confluence of forces -- so they feel tense -- and ready to something rather than just lounge around
(although that's all any of them are doing)

Lounging around and thinking how beautiful they are.

Not exactly a pose you'd expect in a church.
He's covering his face -- but not both eyes
His eye is peeking through his arm -- but not at you.
(he has much more important things to think about)
Are we being teased ?

Again - the body is available -- the eyes are not - and why is he so afraid ?
These are bodies somewhere between strong adult men and soft, flabby boys,
and this poor boy will probably do anything you tell him.

Most of them are not all that happy to be here

Except for him -- who also seems to be the most boyish

Is he hiding a smile ?
Some boys are more available than others.

Some boys are more dreamy and moody than others.

Such a big body - such a small head,
and his face has such soft, gentle features

A nice dreamy, trusting face,
as he leans back on that big, soft cushion

He's posing -- and he looks away
because he knows that we're looking at him

In the throes of passion ?
He's already being loved.

They all seem innocent ..
but some seem more (deliciously) so than others

He seems more raucous and playful than the rest

Look familiar ? I wrote about the study for ithere

And-- though maybe the electricity is gone -- the final painting is much more satisfying - and fleshy.

Again -- why is this boy so terrified ?
(it reminds me of romantic scenes in "Tales of Genji" -- where the young woman is usually terrified of her gentleman visitor -- and for good reason !)

The reverse of several other scenes -- here the eye looks straight at the viewer -- even as the boy seems to be withdrawing to protect and conceal himself.
(Just more teasing)

More small head -- big soft body -- modesty -- hide-and-seek
.. and that sinuosity of line-- coiled like a spring

This is the only one who feels more like a man than a boy to me -- and I could even imagine seeing him as a "tribute to the working man" --

But overall ......................

I'd say that these 20 figures --- positioned at the corner of the boxes that frame each biblical scene --- serve as a kind of grid of sensuality -- through which we poor, carnal humans must view the divine truths of God's role in our creation.

So why didn't he put cute girls instead of cute boys up there ?

Maybe because even those (men) who like to see cute boys are little uncomfortable about it -- and I think that's the point:

Carnality is the human condition -- we can't avoid it -- but let's not get too comfortable with it -- we serve a higher purpose.


Blogger Robert said...

What you say is well argued.

Judging by the few attempts at the female form M did make I am glad he did not fill the S chapel with them. As for the reasons he stuck to the male form I think you are being kind.

Nevertheless you have a good point.

“we serve a higher purpose”

February 26, 2007  
Anonymous marly said...

I like what you say about seeing the divine through a grid of sensuality.

The boy who is not so happy has no cushion!

February 26, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Yes -- he's had his bare butt on that cold stone now for 500 years.

I'd be unhappy too !

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Love this post. Thoughtful, playful, full of curiosity and humanity and sensuality coiled like a cat ready to spring.


March 01, 2007  

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