Pretexts for violence in art  

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Agostino Novello saves a falling child c. 1328 Simone Martini, an example of art horror
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Agostino Novello saves a falling child c. 1328 Simone Martini, an example of art horror

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
pretexts for nudity in art, aestheticization of violence, graphic violence, death in art, art horror

Before the 1850s and the birth of modern art, artists needed an excuse to depict violence and sexuality in their paintings or engravings. Mythology and martyrology provided an excuse to display these themes.

Common depictions in art are The Rape of the Sabine Women and the The Rape of Proserpina. Comparable subjects from Classical Antiquity are the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and the theme of Amazonomachy, the battle of Theseus with the Amazons. A comparable opportunity drawn from Christian legend was afforded by the theme of the Massacre of the Innocents.

These legends and myths provided a subject for Renaissance and post-Renaissance works of art that provided the opportunity to depict multiple semi-clothed figures in intensely passionate struggle.


Contents

Christianity

Martyrology

Christian martyrs, Saint Sebastian, Saint Agatha, Saint Bartholomew, Saint Lawrence, Saint Andrew, Saint Cecilia, Saint Catherine, Mocking of Christ, martyrology, Saint symbolism, Santo Stefano Rotondo, De Sanctorum Martyrum Cruciatibus

The Temptation of Saint Anthony

Some of the stories included in Saint Anthony's biography are perpetuated now mostly in paintings, where they give an excuse for artists to depict their more lurid or bizarre fantasies. Many pictorial artists, from Félicien Rops and Hieronymus Bosch to Salvador Dalí, have depicted these incidents from the life of Anthony; in prose, the tale was retold and embellished by Gustave Flaubert.

The Last Judgment

In art, the Last Judgment is a common theme in medieval and renaissance religious iconography. Like most early iconographic innovations, its origins stem from Byzantium. In Western Christianity, it is often the subject depicted on the central tympanum of medieval cathedrals and churches, or as the central section of a triptych, flanked by depictions of heaven and hell to the left and right, respectively (heaven being to the viewer's left, but to the Christ figure's right). The most famous Renaissance depiction is Michelangelo Buonarroti's in the Sistine Chapel. Included in this is his self portrait, as St. Bartholomew's flayed skin.

Judith

The subject: a daring and beautiful woman Judith in her full maturity, dressed as for the feast with all her spectacular jewels, accompanied by an apprehensive maid, succeeds in decapitating the invading general, Holofernes. The moral is as much about the dangers of a beautiful woman, as had been told of Delilah and Samson, but here the woman was a culture-hero to the listeners.

Massacre of the Innocents

The theme of the "Massacre of the Innocents" has provided artists with opportunities to compose complicated depictions of massed bodies in violent action. Artists of the Renaissance took inspiration for their "Massacres" from Roman reliefs of the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs to the extent that they showed the figures heroically nude. Guido Reni's early (1611) Massacre of the Innocents, in an unusual vertical format, is at Bologna. Peter Paul Rubens painted the theme more than once.

Salome

The Biblical story of Salome has long been a favourite of painters, since it offers a chance to depict oriental splendour, semi-nude women, and exotic scenery under the guise of a Biblical subject. Painters who have done notable representations of Salome include Titian and Gustave Moreau.

Classical mythology

Medusa

Medusa

Caravaggio's and Rubens's Medusa.

Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs

Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs
Lapiths, Centaurs, battle, Battle of the Centaurs (Michelangelo), -machy, pretexts for nudity in art, aestheticization of violence, graphic violence, death in art, Hylonome

In Greek mythology, the centauromachy refers to the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs. The story has its roots in the wedding feast of Pirithous. The Centaurs had been invited, but, unused to wine, their wild nature came to the fore. When the bride was presented to greet the guests, the centaur Eurytion leapt up and attempted to rape her. All the other centaurs were up in a moment, straddling women and boys. In the battle that ensued, Theseus came to the Lapiths' aid. They cut off Eurytion's ears and nose and threw him out. In the battle the Lapith Caeneus was killed, and the defeated Centaurs were expelled from Thessaly to the northwest. In the Renaissance, the battle became a favorite theme for artists: an excuse to display close-packed bodies in violent confrontation. The young Michelangelo executed a marble bas-relief of the subject in Florence about 1492 (see Battle of the Centaurs (Michelangelo)). Piero di Cosimo's panel[1] now at the National Gallery, London, was painted during the following decade. If it was originally part of a marriage chest, or cassone, it was perhaps an uneasy subject for a festive wedding commemoration.

Raptio

raptio

The abduction of women, either for marriage (e.g. kidnapping or elopement) or enslavement (particularly sexual slavery) is sometimes referred to by the Latin term raptio (in archaic or literary English rendered as rape). In Roman Catholic canon law, raptio refers to the legal prohibition of matrimony if the bride was abducted forcibly (Canon 1089 CIC). ; Frauenraub, originally from German, is used in English in the field of art history.

Common depictions in art are The Rape of the Sabine Women and the The Rape of Proserpina. Comparable subjects from Classical Antiquity are the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs and the theme of Amazonomachy, the battle of Theseus with the Amazons. A comparable opportunity drawn from Christian legend was afforded by the theme of the Massacre of the Innocents.

These legends and myths provided a subject for Renaissance and post-Renaissance works of art that provided the opportunity to depict multiple semi-clothed figures in intensely passionate struggle.

The Rape of the Sabine Women

The Rape of the Sabine Women

The Rape of the Sabine Women ("rape" in this context meaning "kidnapping" rather than its modern meaning) is an episode in the legendary early history of Rome narrated by Livy and Plutarch ('Lives' II, 15 and 19). It provided a subject for Renaissance and post-Renaissance works of art that combined a suitably inspiring example of the hardihood and courage of ancient Romans with the opportunity to depict multiple figures in intensely passionate struggle.

The Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the legendary history of Rome in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families. (In this context, rape means abductionraptio — rather than its prevalent modern meaning of sexual violation.) Recounted by Livy and Plutarch ('Parallel Lives' II, 15 and 19).

The Rape of Proserpina

The Rape of Proserpina, raptio

The Rape of Proserpine is a classical mythological subject in Western art, depicting the kidnap of Proserpina by Pluto.




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