Pitting the Beauty against the Beast

Three Graces, Antonio Canova, V&A, www.artfund.org

Ladies versus Bestiary… Such a quandary is on my mind, as I can’t decide which theme to do for the next Treasure Hunt at the Louvre (on Sunday 1 July, from 2.30 – 5pm*). Apologies for a recent dearth of Louvre, art-related posts, but I’m back from our sojourn… And with both the beauty (as in the female form) and the beast in mind. Bestiaries are fantastical animals, such as griffins, centaurs, unicorns, even gargoyles. They appear in all sorts of fun places, such as scrutinising Paris a-top the belfry of Notre Dame (Gargoyles), or overlooking Darius’s Palace at Susa (Griffins), as written about in the Benetton of Near Eastern Art.

So until I’ve reached a decision for the next THATLou, I’m going to linger on these two subjects, the Beauty and the Beast, and if you have a say on which subject would make the best THATLou theme, please feel free to either vote on the THATLou facebook page (www.facebook.com/thatlouparis — or click on the logo on the right hand side) or leave a comment here.

Three Graces (1482) detail in Sandro Botticelli's Primavera at the Uffizi, www.broadstrokes.wordpress.com

Three Graces (1482) detail in Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera at the Uffizi, www.broadstrokes.wordpress.com

What personifies beauty or ladies in the arts for me are The Three Graces. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1974 edition) defines The Three Graces:

Greek = Charities, Latin = Gratiae. In Green religion = Goddess of Fertility. The name refers to the pleasing or charming appearance of a fertile field or garden. Their number varied in different legends, but usually there were three: Aglaia (Brightness also Elegance), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness also Mirth, Good Cheer) and Thalia (Bloom also, Youth and Beauty, Festivities).

Depending on the legend, they’re said to be the daughters of Zeus and Hera (or Eurynome is the daughter of Oceanus sometimes) or Helios and Aegle (a daughter of Zeus). Frequently the Graces were taken as goddesses of ‘charm’ or ‘beauty’ and hence were associated with Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love), Peitho (her attendant) and/or Hermes, a fertility and messenger god.

In early times they were often represented with drapery, but by the time the Romans got to them they were usually full-fledged flashing us: Unembarrassed of their beautiful form, and usually draped around one another opposed to in drapes. More to come on them this week.

3 Graces Raphael, Museée Condé, Chantilly France, WikiPaintings

Three Graces (1503-1504) Raphael, Museée Condé, Chantilly France, WikiPaintings

An example of Bestiary, to wait their turn and be covered after lingering on some beauty with various Three Graces…

Centaur, Borghese Collection Louvre, www.ArsMagazine.com

Centaur, Borghese Collection Louvre, www.ArsMagazine.com

* The first image of the Three Graces is a sculpture by Antonio Canova (1814-1817), which is currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who launched a public campaign to purchase it. More on such museumese will follow this week as well.

2 thoughts on “Pitting the Beauty against the Beast

  1. Pingback: Leo’s Contemporaries | THATLou

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