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"Portrait of a Fat Man," by Master of Flémalle (probably Robert Campin, c. 1375-1444)
Click to enlarge.


The sitter probably was Robert de Masmines, a distinguished Burgundian soldier, identifiable on the basis of a drawing now in Arras. The daring white background is calculated to heighten every aspect of the sitter's jowly, stubbly physiognomy, his ducal ties indicated by the court's characteristic short haircut and fur-trimmed robes. (Web Gallery of Art)

Campin was a very early Dutch Northern Renaissance painter whose crisp, almost hyper-realism evokes manuscript illumination. It's interesting that the man being painted was a soldier. We have this somewhat stereotyped view of the military bearing as buff and youthful, but like the mid-seventeenth century Alessandro del Borro, the paintings provide another side to the story.

Date: 2010-12-03 12:58 am (UTC)
oakmouse: (Default)
From: [personal profile] oakmouse
I like the Master of Flemalle. Nice clear work; very precise and yet so vivid.

Date: 2010-12-03 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] men-in-full.livejournal.com
Yup, great realism without the cynicism or sense of tragedy (as in late 19th c. genre painting.)

Date: 2010-12-07 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corvideye.livejournal.com
Unrelated to this post, but I ran across an article I thought you might find interesting. It's about the ritual fattening (guru) practiced by men of the Massa tribe of Cameroon, one of the few institutions that involves fattening a group of men (not just one chieftain) rather than women.

http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/pleins_textes_5/b_fdi_30-30/31476.pdf

I found the conclusions particularly interesting:

"[The culture] values fatness as a sign of strength and equanimity and as an element of beauty. Being overweight is also seen as an attribute of economic prosperity and supernatural protection, bestowing a feeling of well-being. In psychosociological terms, the guru is a rewarding experience, enabling participants to reach a higher physical and social status than in normal life and training them during the sessions to be disciplined and good natured, thus favouring social integration. It provides members of the older generation... with the opportunity to help the younger generation by enhancing their physical and social status. At the same time, the elders reinforce their own economic prestige within the society. It expresses cohesion between the male age strata and egalitarian tendencies rather than a concern about establishing a limited permanent elite.

"...we should not be too hasty, and discard the guru as a pleasurable cultural activity having no positive effect on the reproductive success and biological fitness of the population considered as a whole. If it seems to penalize the nutritionally
vulnerable goups, it is at the same time well accepted by the women, who appreciate the “bloom”of their brothers, sons and lovers, which confers a feeling of wellbeing to the whole society. ... Would it be adventurous to imagine that their guru institution, by boosting cultural values, comforting them in the face of natural environmental threats, diminishing social stress, and creating a general feeling of psychological well-being,
may ultimately have a positive influence on the biological fitness of the whole Massa population?"

Date: 2010-12-08 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] men-in-full.livejournal.com
Thanks - very interesting, esp. the part on pg 12 where they mention that the men generally return to their pre-guru size upon eating a more "customary" diet.

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