Friday, 20 April 2012

Frowned objects (of desire)

There is nothing more endearing than a frowning woman. My feminist readers throw their hands up in horror at this blatant objectification of  women. Guilty your honour. It's just something about that 'look'. Here are some of my favorites. Two seem in control. Two seem vulnerable. What do you think?

Caravaggio, Judith and Holofernes, 1599, Oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

Fillide Melandroni removes the head (and aspirations) of Michelangelo Merisi in this decisive moment from the Old Testament story of Judith and Holofernes. 


Fillide was one of Caravaggio's favourite models appearing in at least three of his paintings. Painting directly on to the canvas without first sketching, Caravaggio, using himself as the model for Holofernes, has created a masterpiece of psycho sexual drama. X Ray examination has shown that originally she was bare breasted. But it doesn't take much imagination to visualise this, and to leave her without the blouse may have relegated this picture to the crassness of Vasari's Andromeda. Also an interesting similarity between her earring and the necklace worn by Manet's Olympia...
But it is her face that I am interested in. The furrowed brow, the moist lips, her horror at what she is doing and yet unhesitatingly committed to the task. Scary.

Louise Brooks by Eugene Robert Richie

Louise Brooks, somewhat anachronistic 'star' of the silent era (in that she hated Hollywood and preferred to make films in Europe, and who resisted pressure to cross over into 'talkies') is mesmerising. To see her play the tragic Lulu in G W Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929) is essential viewing for anyone interested in film and what qualities make someone a 'star'. For 130 minutes one is transfixed by her presence...


In this still Louise is repulsed by the attention she receives. She is not acting. Abused as a child and in her own words, "incapable of real love", she is paradoxically femme fatale but unreachable at the same time. And as style icon? Light years ahead of the pack...


Carmen Amaya, Queen of the Gypsies. I first came across Carmen when scouring through second hand records. A face like this stands out in a crowd. I bought the record not realising at the time she was accompanied by the great Spanish guitarist Sabicas. I had always liked flamenco but never really appreciated what was going on until seeing Paco Pena and his company in concert.


The duet with male dancers was like an elaborate mating ritual. All the female dancers had an expression that was as practiced as their steps. It said, "if you think you deserve me, then you had better perform better than what you are doing at the moment!". And of course, they try, but never seem to conquer the fiery independence of the women. Passionate stuff...


Jelena Dokic. Tennis star. Poor Jelena. As if having a fascist nutter as a father wasn't bad enough she just never seems to be able to crack the big matches. No wonder she looks pensive...


...but then she wins a point and it's all about revenge of the Croatians. It could be Judith again, brandishing the sword of Holofernes...

No comments:

Post a Comment