Monday, June 02, 2008

Gilbert and the Thick Limbs

Before I get that book and I find I have to rethink every thing, I thought I might post a couple of pictures of Sir Alfred Gilbert.

The outside ‘Eros’ (in Aluminium) of Piccadilly Circus fame has quite a thin ankle but when we look at an earlier work above in Marble we see some rather sturdy ‘washer woman’ arms do we not and the little boy’s ankles are a great deal thicker that I would have made them. I took these photos in the V & A and they really do not do this work justice (No stabiliser in my camera). The European influence is obvious. He produced this work whilst in Rome. The models for this were Gilbert’s second son and his wet nurse (who one assumes is an Italian) called ironically Michaelena. The pose is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna a cast of which was in the RA Schools which Gilbert would have been familiar with.

For a time, Gilbert was aprenticed to the Hungarian sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm from whom he learnt the realistic sculptorial technique and benefited also from Boehm's friendship with Aime-Jules Dalou.

I am indebted to the RA for this information and the picture of Eros above.

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Blogger Marly Youmans said...

As that one is "Mother and Child," one presumes that the two are harmonious (both being thick-limbed) as a pair, and that he desired a peasant look. Or that he desired a tinge of the massive and monumental.

But I'm not entirely clear what his intentions were (and if, indeed, they matter to the work), and what your own stance is... You dislike that mode? You prefer gracefulness? You want something different, definitely. I'm a wee bit fuzzy.

Clearly he was capable of something different but chose to do what he did.

6:05 pm  
Blogger Robert said...

I answer this at length because so many and so much has been said over the centuries about the wonderful/ awful David by Michelangelo.

Marley, you know me! I got into an academic discussion on who was greater; Bernini or Michelangelo.

The latter, on the whole, did men not women, so I am no fan to be honest. He was important in the history and influence of Art and gifted, but I really do not like his so called ‘David’ and think it is much more Goliath looking which he allowed it to be at the end. Anatomically it is almost grotesque with head the size of a ten year old (in proportion) and hands much too big. The torso is of an ideal man, the temptation to do that was far too great!

Swallow the owner of the blog in question suggested that my comment;

It matters not that anyone viewing a sculpture from any distance or at an angle using only the naked eye should need to alter in any way the proportions of any part or parts of the anatomy for aesthetic reasons as is sometime suggested elsewhere…...

was invalid. He said;

Oh, come on. That’s not true. You must have noticed, Robert, that you need to thicken the limbs of your outdoor figures, especially large ones, because the sky somehow makes them look skinnier than they are. That’s just one example. I keep trying to imagine David’s hand smaller, to see how that would affect the look of the figure but I can’t decide. But it is unthinkable that Michelangelo would have failed to consider the view from below, as well as from a distance.

This Swallow bases on a book he had read by Rodin’s teacher Edouard Lanteri. I have now bought this ‘dated’ but classic book and can make an objective view on it, but unfortunately the passage that Swallow refers to is in Volume iii not the vols i. and ii. I have bought!

Here is the bit Swallow quotes to back up his argument that David is a ‘beautiful’ object:

and the remarks about the thickening of limbs are in the third volume at the end of Chapter Four (pp. 28, 29), which treats the comparative measurements of horses.

Not deterred by this, I look at works of horses and at one of my favourite English figure works; and sure enough they have quite think limbs, thicker than I would have done them; but not grotesquely so, just a little bit but, another one, Eros in Piccadilly, outside, no exaggeration at all, to me just right; but on the horses there is good reason. Technology of the time, 1900, required thickness for strength in bronze. I argue it was not for aesthetics. The brain deals with foreshortening in sculpture. Look at MacMonnies Horse Tamers I showed you some time back; the legs of the horses are a little thicker than they should be but the human figures are just great; no need for gigantic heads or hands for aesthetic reasons. Remember David was, according to the Samuel, extremely good looking!

The main argument here from Angela (a writer, link lost, and expert on Rome etc.) is that it was made to look menacing for political reasons and, had I been an academic historian, I would make allowances and agree how beautiful it looks.

No, I believe that Michelangelo made the head and hands too big on purpose. He intended to reduce their size if necessary at a later date. Had anyone made anything out of a block stone that size before? He needed to make room for error, to give himself some rubbing out room. In the end he got bored with it and didn’t bother; it needed to be grotesque politically so it worked fine. It was a political ‘Poster’ not a beautiful work of Art. Wonderful because it’s Michelangelo, Queen of Sculpture.

9:08 pm  
Blogger David said...

Wow! what a great blog! This is a treasure trove for artists and sculptors.

9:25 pm  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks David and welcome; I love your Leopard especially find here

12:35 am  

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