The Alternative Convention  

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The Alternative Convention is the eighth chapter in Kenneth Clark's The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (1956). The chapter is concerned with nudity in medieval art, gothic art and art of the Northern Renaissance.

"Roots and bulbs, pulled up into the light, give us for a moment a feeling of shame. They are pale, defenceless, unself-supporting. They have the formless character of life which has both been protected and oppressed. In the dark their slow biological gropings have been the contrary of the quick resolute movements of free creatures, bird, fish or dancer, flashing through a transparent medium, and have been made baggy, scraggy and indeterminate. Looking at a group of figures in Gothic painting or miniature we experience the same sensation. The bulb-like women and root-like men seem to have been dragged out of the protective darkness in which the human body had lain muffled for a thousand years."

The Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden and Last Judgment at Bourges are mentioned in this category. Another bulbous female nude of the "alternative convention" is a Vanitas[1] by Giovanni Bellini. Although the chapter makes no mention of the anomymous painting Liebeszauber ("magic of love"), it is a perfect illustration of the medieval beauty ideal: tight pelvis, wide waist and small breasts.

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