Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Fig Leaf Campaign

The Catholic Church, famous nudes, Michelangelo, and The Fig Leaf Campaign.   
Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez c. 1650. The Fig Leaf Campaign. MarchMatron.com
Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez c. 1650
a pretty girl who is naked
is worth a million statues
- e. e. cummings
The way I figure it, people have been getting naked for a long time. The only historical fluctuation in displaying a birthday suit is the how, where and when.
David with pants by Daisy Williams
David with pants by Daisy Williams
Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor and didn't particularly enjoy painting stuff.
Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture. - Michelangelo
Michelangelo especially disliked painting stuff for Popes.  
Nevertheless, Popes had enormous disposable income, a disproportional interest in leaving a legacy, and a whole bunch of hellfire and brimstone to back it up. Like it or not, options for artists were limited.
Tomb for Pope Julius II, sketched by Michelangelo
Tomb for Pope Julius II, sketched by Michelangelo
Pope Julius II had commissioned the 33-year-old Michelangelo to build a papal tomb.  
The design was adequately pompous, and the sculptor was hard at work, but in 1508 Michelangelo was removed from that project and assigned to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling 
He was not pleased.

What do you despise? By this you are truly known. - Michelangelo
Michelangelo Julius II Tomb. Statues of Rachel, Leah, and Moses
Michelangelo Julius II Tomb. Statues of Rachel, Leah, and Moses
The tomb was eventually completed after the death of Pope Julius II in 1513. Dead Popes not having as much influence as the live ones, the pomposity level of the planned tomb was not met.
Moses by Michelangelo Pope Julius II Tomb (1505-1545)
Moses by Michelangelo Pope Julius II Tomb (1505-1545)
It did, however, include a well-known representation of a horned and perturbed Moses.
Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted 1508 to 1512 by Michelangelo
Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted 1508 to 1512 
Until you see the Sistine Chapel, you can have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing. - Goethe
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took 4 years to paint, includes 343 figures, and is one of the few legitimate definitions of "awesome".
Ignudo by Michelangelo from the Sistine chapel
One of the twenty Ignudi painted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
Michelangelo included 20 Ignudi, athletic male nudes, on the corners of the narrative scenes.
And because I had to look it up, some additional Sistine trivia: 
Ignudi means naked (from nudi or nude). 
The Sistine Chapel was named for Pope Sixtus IV, Sixtus meaning polished. Pope from 1471 to 1484, he commissioned the chapel.
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library
In addition to the famous chapel, Sixtus IV was known for creating the Vatican Archives, aiding the Spanish Inquisition, promoting slavery, and nepotism.

Pope Julius II, Pope from 1503 to 1510, was one of Sixtus IV's "nephews". Nepotism (from nipote or nephew) refers to the papal practice of placing "nephews", typically sons of the celibate popes, in prominent positions.
Ignudo by Michelangelo from the Sistine chapel including acorn details
Ignudo by Michelangelo from the Sistine chapel including acorn details.
Acorns are featured in the in the paintings because Pope Julius II's family name is Rovere meaning oak. 
Paus Adrianus VI (1459-1523)
Paus Adrianus VI (1459-1523)
Pope Adrian VI (who I also had to look up) was Pope from 1522 to 1523. He was offended by the Ignudi and wanted them painted over, but he wasn't around long enough to enforce the no-nude proclamation.
Every artist undresses his subject, whether human or still life. It is his business to find essences in surfaces, and what more attractive and challenging surface than the skin around a soul? - Richard Corliss
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo from 1536 until 1541. Sistine Chapel.
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo from 1536 until 1541. Sistine Chapel.
During that time, several Vatican representatives picked up the no-nude proclamation of Pope Adrian VI.  
You miss a lot of wonderful as well as historic art if the nude is denounced. - B. J. Adams
Adam and Eve from Zoolander 2
Adam and Eve from Zoolander 2

Covering private parts in an original Adam and Eve approved method started a censorship movement called the Fig Leaf Campaign.
The Pope's Master of Ceremonies (or the head of The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, which is evidently a thing) was a guy named Biagio da Cesena. He took particular joy in the no-naked outraged, elevating his political status and calling the chapel a public bathhouse. 

Biagio da Cesena painted as Minos with donkey ears and a snake biting his genitals. Detail from Sistine Chapel, the Last Judgment by Michelangelo
Biagio da Cesena painted as Minos, including donkey ears and a snake biting his no-naked area.
Michelangelo's response was a fantastic bit of artistic representation. He painted da Cesena as Minos, the judge of the underworld, including donkey ears and an inconvenient snake. 
When da Cesena complained to Pope Paul III, the Pope replied, 
"Had you been in Purgatory I might have done something. . . God has given me authority in heaven and on earth, but my writ does not extend to hell. You will just have to put up with it." 
Gates of Hell, detail from the Last Judgment
Gates of Hell, detail from the Last Judgment 
Perfect!
Michelangelo painted his portrait in the flayed skin of St Bartholomew.
Michelangelo painted his portrait in the flayed skin of St Bartholomew. 
Out of the almost four hundred figures, Michelangelo also painted his own portrait in the fresco. St Bartholomew, one of the many martyrs waiting for justice, is holding up his flayed skin which has the face of Michelangelo.
I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint. - Michelangelo
Hercules (1958) Staring Steve Reeves directed by Pietro Francisci
Hercules (1958) staring Steve Reeves
Just after the wall was completed, the Council of Trent condemned nudity in religious art, and presumably nudity in most other things as well:
All lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust.  
Photo 1894 of strongman Eugen Sandow by Benjamin Falk
1894 photo of strongman Eugen Sandow as Hercules 
Pope Paul IV, Pope from 1555 to 1559, called the Last Judgment, "a stew of nudes" and ordered changes.  
Michelangelo retorted, 
"Tell his supreme holiness that this is a mere trifle and can easily be done; let him mend the world, paintings are easily mended."
Charlton Heston The Agony And The Ecstasy 1965
Charlton Heston in The Agony And The Ecstasy, 1965
A brave move considering Pope Paul IV established a reign of terror through the Inquisition as well as forced Roman Jews into a ghetto while mandating they wear a Jewish badge of identification. 
A year after Michelangelo's death, Pope Pius IV decided the no-naked proclamation, especially in light of the Council of Trent, should be enforced. 
Considering his other proclamations, it isn't surprising.
Josephine Baker Banana skirt dance 1920s Paris
Josephine Baker, banana skirt dance, Paris, 1920s
They [Bishops] shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up anything lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer. - Pope Pius IV 
Christ and the Virgin Mary. Detail from Sistine Chapel, the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Modesty breeches painted later as part of the Fig Leaf Campaign
Christ and the Virgin Mary, 
modesty breeches painted later as part of the Fig Leaf Campaign
Daniele da Volterra was hired to paint over the offensive bits. He was also ordered to completely chiseled away and then replace a naked St Catherine. Da Volterra, an admirer of and friend to Michelangelo became known as "Il Braghettone" or the "underpants painter."
Over the years, 38 modesty breeches were added to the frescos. Statues also received stone additions covering areas the Council of Trent preferred no one think about.
Michelangelo's David, 1501-1504, Galleria dell' Accademia Florence
Michelangelo's David, 1501-1504, Galleria dell' Accademia Florence
He who does not master the nude cannot understand the principles of architecture. - Michelangelo 
The Victorians made an industry of plaster statue replicas and included fig leaves to maintain delicate sensibilities.
Fig Leaf for David, D. Brucciani & Co, ca. 1857. V&A Museum
Fig Leaf for David, made by D. Brucciani and Co, 1857
When Queen Victoria was scandalized by a plaster David gifted from Tuscany, a fig leaf, 1.5 feet in length, was kept at the ready to cover the 19.5 feet tall statue's bits should the queen wish to visit.  
Sistine Chapel Daniel before and after cleaning. The Fig Leaf Campaign. MarchMatron.com
Daniel before and after cleaning, Sistine Chapel ceiling
From 1984 to 1994, the Sistine Chapel was restored. There was an extensive debate about the removal of the censoring breeches. Eventually, it was decided that some would stay and some would be removed. 
St Peter's Basilica Vatican City. Modern clothing restrictions for entry
St Peter's Basilica Vatican City, modern clothing restrictions for entry
Oct. 31, 2012 was the 500 year anniversary of the inauguration of the Sistine Chapel. 5 million tourists visit the Sistine Chapel annually, with peaks of around 20,000 visitors per day. 
The current concern, breeches or not, is the amount of traffic damaging the frescos by increasing temperature, carbon dioxide and moisture in the chapel.
Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish. - Michelangelo
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan 1963 and 2008 after destruction
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan, photos taken in 1963 and 2008 
Tragically, destruction of antiquities didn't end with papal sensibilities.       
The Buddhas of Bamiyan, carved in the 4th and 5th century and standing at 115 ft and 174 ft respectively were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban. Initially declared false idols, the destruction was later reported as retaliation for international aid. 
@GeneralBoles The Vatican fails to cover up the nudes for Iranian President's visit.
@GeneralBoles The Vatican fails to cover up the nudes for Iranian President's visit.
In 2016, the Italian Prime Minister had nude works of art covered with privacy screens to prevent offending the visiting president of Iran.
16 Inflated Sex dolls by Sturtevant
16 Inflated Sex dolls by Sturtevant
Not to say, there aren't works of "art" that are in serious need of definition clarity . . .
The Degenerate Art Exhibition, an "exhibition of shame", depicting the "deterioration of art since 1910" was held in 1937 by the Nazi Party in Munich.
The Degenerate Art Exhibition, an "exhibition of shame", depicting the "deterioration of art since 1910" was held in 1937 by the Nazi Party in Munich. 
and most genres of art can find, at the very least, one group who takes a particular joy in being outraged.  
Nudity is a problem for Americans. It disrupts our social exchange. - Eric Fiscal

detail Sistine Chapel. Hands of God and Adam by Michelangelo
Hands of God and Adam before the touch
Anytime Michelangelo doesn't get an artistic pass for nudity, it's time to take a good look at what group is doing the censoring.  
The first condition of progress is the removal of censorship. - George Bernard Shaw

#Art #Catholic #Vatican #Nudes #Michelangelo #LastJudgement #Censorship
Update 6/9/2018


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