Sunday Grace

The face of woman in Western art, in her many incarnations. An offering of beauty, the transient and eternal alike–at once, in fact–unwrapped and presented with a videographer’s gentle flourish and Yo-Yo Ma’s poignant cello.

Via the brilliant Lord Whimsy, who notes:

An absolute joy to watch. The sequence sometimes gives the impression that the eternal face behind it all is actually flirting with you.

If you’re interested, here is the approximate progression:

Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael – Raffaello, Titian – Tiziano Vecellio , Sandro Botticelli , Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Antonello da Messina, Pietro Perugino, Hans Memling, El Greco, Hans Holbein, Fyodor Stepanovich Rokotov , Peter Paul Rubens, Gobert, Caspar Netscher, Pierre Mignard, Jean-Marc Nattier, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Alexei Vasilievich Tyranov, Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky, Alexey Gavrilovich Venetsianov, Antoine-Jean Gros, Orest Adamovich Kiprensky, Amalie, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, Flatour, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Wontner, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Comerre, Leighton, Blaas, Renoir, Millias, Duveneck, Cassat, Weir, Zorn, Alphonse Mucha, Paul Gaugin, Henri Matisse, Picabia, Gustav Klimt, Hawkins, Magritte, Salvador Dali, Malevich, Merrild, Modigliani, Pablo Picasso.

[Video by eggman913]

[H/T Lisa in Baltimore]

Also at litbrit.

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21 Comments

Filed under 03_litbrit

21 responses to “Sunday Grace

  1. I watched it a couple of weeks ago, and found it compelling, but also disturbing.

  2. litbrit

    I am struggling with WordPress to get the YouTube video up. For some reason, it keeps chopping off all the code! Bear with me…

  3. MR. Bill

    beautiful.

  4. Doktor Wankenstein

    I just saw this recently, and sent a “share” link to my 14-yo daughter.

    She loved it.

  5. Allie

    It’s beautiful…. And yet… Did anyone else feel like it was more men’s perceptions of Women throughout the ages? I saw the one Cassat in there – were there any other women painters? It’s funny – all those works of art normally floor me individually, and I’m not the sort of critic that wants to throw out what is astonishing and great in art simply because it was done by men – But strung together it left me a little cold. Alas for my philistine heart.

  6. Allie, yes — that’s exactly what went through my mind.

  7. LS

    It was amazing to watch, but about halfway through I got distracted by the fact that they all have the same nose… then the cubists showed up and I got over it.

  8. Time-Machine

    I got distracted by the fact that they all have the same nose…

    The exact thought struck me! I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  9. I found this deeply creepifying the first time I saw it. It’s still kinda creepy. For so much of it, it’s like they’re all painting the same woman.

  10. Bluefish Altar

    It’s a lovely piece, really amazing to watch.

    But where are all the OLD women? Alas, you don’t get to be included in the “eternal feminine,” if you’re not young, white, and beautifully symmetrical.

  11. Melissa McEwan

    I found this deeply creepifying the first time I saw it.

    Me, too. I saw it about a week or two ago, and all I could think was that it was trying to hypnotize me into submission. “You will be demure and submissive! Look into their eyes!” LOL. Eugh.

    And I keep seeing this described as “500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art,” but it’s really “500 Years of Female Portraits of White Women in Western Art.” Meh.

  12. Allie

    but it’s really “500 Years of Female Portraits of White Women in Western Art.” Meh.

    It’s true! There’s a reason there are no Gauguin paintings in there. Nor any Rubens, for that matter.

  13. Allie

    I take it back – apparently there is a Gauguin. But not of any Tahitian women. Something else – can anyone pick it out?

  14. Pingback: blunders and absurdities - (just under) three minutes of beauty

  15. Yeah. As a genetically doe-eyed type, I loved Twisty’s ’tilt-head honky ciphers’ line about this.

  16. Lizard

    The sequence sometimes gives the impression that the eternal face behind it all is actually flirting with you.

    That kind of sums it up, I think! I have discussed this montage with a slew of intelligent, artsy women in the past week, and all of us have had the same reaction: First, “Huh, that’s really beautiful,” and then “Wait a minute, are there any faces on here that aren’t white, young, and coy?” and then “Damn, that’s so typical!”

    And yet it is still beautiful–it’s just deeply irritating that something titled “Women in Art” is so narrowly, male-centrically defined.

    I suppose I should also be complaining about the fact that the accompanying music is written and played by men….but that’s where I draw my line, because there is not much in the universe that’s better than Bach channeled through Yo-Yo-Ma. 🙂

  17. “500 Years of Female Portraits of White Women in Western Art”

    Well, let’s remember that most of the paintings in this sequence are from before the 19th century, when most Westerners would have encountered only other Westerners. It’s only recently that that has changed on a large scale, so what should we expect to see in earlier European art?

  18. BC

    I’ll go out on a philosophical/ideological limb here and say that beauty can be discussed and learned, but in the end it can’t be proven or disproven. Beauty just is. And this is beautiful. It’s true that it only shows white, young, European women. If that bothers you, the solution is to produce a similar work with faces of African women, or Asian women, or older women. But I don’t see how the absence of African or Asian women from this video makes it any less beautiful. Less complete, maybe.

  19. Melissa McEwan

    Well, let’s remember that most of the paintings in this sequence are from before the 19th century, when most Westerners would have encountered only other Westerners. It’s only recently that that has changed on a large scale, so what should we expect to see in earlier European art?

    You just substituted “European” for “Western.” White Europeans aren’t the only Westerners. And European art isn’t the only Western art. Had the video been called “500 Years of Female Portraits in European Art,” I wouldn’t have made the same complaint.

    I don’t see how the absence of African or Asian women from this video makes it any less beautiful

    I don’t believe anyone said that it did.

  20. I don’t see how the absence of African or Asian women from this video makes it any less beautiful.–BC

    I don’t believe anyone said that it did.–Melissa

    However, this little three-minute bit of beauty was (and is) being savaged herein because its creator dared to focus on one segment of a vast area of human endeavor and study: art.

    There are no painted portraits of me–or for that matter, anyone in my family–hanging on walls anywhere. My family were not wealthy white aristocrats, as were most of the female subjects who sat for the portraits depicted. These women’s faces–the faces that comprise the vast majority of those in the video–reflect the distribution of wealth (i.e. the ability to hire a top-level artist to paint one’s portrait) in this part of the world, and during that time in history.

    A documentary about emeralds is no less interesting or worthwhile because it does not offer deep discussions about rubies.

    That said, there most certainly were at least a few women “of color” in the lineup–Gaugin’s Tahitian woman, an Egyptian princess (or queen), and a multi-hued face by Picasso (who by his own admission studied, and was inspired by, African women’s faces as envisioned and assembled in African masks)–but yes, most of the many images were of white women.

    Perhaps no-one used the term “less beautiful” in describing the video, but plenty of other derogatory phrases are invoked in the above comments:

    deeply creepifying
    disturbing
    narrowly, male-centrically defined
    Alas, you don’t get to be included in the “eternal feminine,” if you’re not young, white, and beautifully symmetrical.

    That last one really upsets me–where is that said? Who is saying that? This is just a small sample of art that manages, in under three minutes, to offer something eternal. When each of the artists sat down (or stood up, who knows) to paint each of these works, I guarantee you he or she did not set out to promulgate sexism or hoist up young white women as the sole, unchallenged standard for beauty. Rather, the artist looked at the subject and tried to capture something of her spirit in a two-dimensional medium that would last forever.

    And years (centuries!) later, the video artist compiled these various efforts using technology. But somehow the morphing/shifting back and forth effect (since the artists did not paint all the women from a template, with her head facing exactly the same way; in fact, they didn’t even live in the same country or century as each other) is interpreted as coy, head-tilting behavior. How submissive! Look how they are all objectifying women! Good God.

    It’s important to discuss and analyze art, yes, but it’s also important, while doing so, to keep in mind such components as context–that of history, for one thing. When I posted this, it was because I’d been touched by the beauty of this piece and its accompaniment. If the paintings–or indeed, the video–had no artistic merit, and there had been solid argument set forth to prove same–I could accept that. But after reading these comments, and realizing that there are so many people who cannot simply accept beauty without dissecting it to uncover its evil intent (because there surely must be one), I am as disheartened as I’ve been in a long while.

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