men_in_full: (more devos)



Detail from Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, c. 1675, Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1639–1709)


Two more, SFW )

men_in_full: (rubens bacchus)


“Bacchus,” by Jan van Dalen (c. 1620-c. 1653, Flemish) 1648 (link)
(click to enlarge)

Two more, both SFW )

men_in_full: (de vos bacchus pinch)
Netherlands Baroque, naturally. By Hendrik Goltzius (1558-1617), who I mentioned in passing back here.


men_in_full: (virtruvian man)


"Augustus the Strong" circa 1715
by Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746)


From the painting's notes at the Nelson-Atkins Museum:
Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670-1733) was known for his physical strength and procreative abilities - he was rumored to have fathered 365 illegitimate children. [One for each day of the year! -MIF] He was also a man of extravagant and luxurious tastes who founded the celebrated Zwinger Museum in Dresden and the Meissen porcelain manufactory. Here, Largillière successfully integrates Augustus's sensuality - through color and enlivened, nimble brushwork - with his reputed strength, conveyed by a confident, military bearing.
men_in_full: (Default)
Here's another one of those Baroque "damned soul" paintings, this one by Flemish artist Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638), whose date and title are unknown to me:

Fall of Ixion, NSFW )

men_in_full: (loo silenus)
In Peter Paul Rubens' 1620 painting "Fall of the Damned," there are some interesting fat male figures just a little south and west of the center of the painting (shown below the cut.)

Some fat Rubens men, unfortunately damned and probably NSFW... )
men_in_full: (opera goers)
Cornelis de Vos (1584-1651), an assistant and collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens, created the Triumph of Bacchus from which comes my icon. He also did a few other paintings featuring larger men.

Cut for your bandwidth pleasure, some NSFW )

men_in_full: (nacken)
The Internets never cease to amaze me. Every so often I like to search on "fat man" on flickr.com, just to see what turns up. This morning I found this image of a painting hanging in the Louvre, taken by Firepile. At the time there was no attribution, just "A really interesting fat man." I sent Firepile a message, asking if she had any more information on the painting, who the painter was, etc.

Her google-fu was strong, and she deserves a big hat tip, because she PM'ed me back. She found the painting through www.scholarsresource.com; it's called "A Fat Man of Rank." Best yet, it was done by none other than my beloved Jacob Jordaens himself, about whom I had just posted about earlier.

Since Firepile had posted her photograph under a Creative Commons license with "remix approval," I took the liberty of cropping the original and resizing it, to show more of the painting itself. There is some parallax effect because the original was shot from below. Click for a larger view.






It was nice to see that for Jordaens, congenial and sanguine fatness wasn't just for peasants. The man in the painting reminds me a bit of the portrait of Alessandro del Borro, in that he looks out with the same forthrightness, but yet he seems gentler.

So when did fat men lose this easy confidence, be it that of the un-selfconscious, celebrating peasant, or the firm assurance of a military commander or "man of rank?" Was it with the advent of tailored clothing, which demands that the body fit the clothes, rather than the other way around? Did the rise of science and "scientism" (swapping scientific authority for that of religion) pathologize the fat male body? Were men in the Baroque era such complete "masters of the universe," at least if they were of rank, that body size literally was of no importance? And now, in our meritocratic age, do we take the streamlining of a body as the "outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual 'grace'" of a streamlined mind?

I don't have the answers. But when I look out over the past centuries at these men immortalized in paint, I see something in their eyes which I think would benefit us to recover - even if we don't entirely recover the world which made them.
men_in_full: (Default)
In the Flemish Baroque I seek a kind of refuge from the harsh, bright images of the present. Instead, these painters of some four centuries ago soothe me with their love of flesh, food, and fun.

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) was a great lover of place - he married and set up house in the same Antwerp neighborhood in which he grew up, and lived there till his death. While he occasionally worked with Peter Paul Rubens in Rubens' atelier, he never left Belgium to study painting abroad, as did his colleages Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. His paintings have a frank and physical quality which probably comes out of a powerful sense of place, especially in the confidence to paint in comfortable, vernacular ways that which he saw and experienced around him.

Click images for a larger view (some NSFW) )

men_in_full: (opera goers)
I've been browsing male portraits of the Baroque masters. They're interesting for several reasons.

For one, they give the lie to the notion that fatness is something new, a consequence of television, "junk food," and commuting to work by car. But these painters depict a range of body types and sizes. While most of their bigger men wouldn't even be considered "fat" in today's eyes, the variety can clearly be seen, both in individual and group portraits.

For another, the Baroque portraitists only hint at the shape of their subjects' bodies, almost as if they didn't have bodies at all. These men seem to exist as intensely rendered, bright faces which float above a sea of massed black, with the curvature of the belly faintly outlined by a white hand, or the occasional glint of jet buttons or belt. Sometimes only the texture of fabric barely defines the flesh's slope, as in this 1634 portrait of Juan Mateos by Velazquez (link.) Only their faces reveal the concealed softness, in the fold of a chin or the roundness of a jowl.

Bodies swallowed in black (picture-heavy and SFW) )

men_in_full: (Default)
The god of wine, revelry, and fertility known as Dionysus (Bacchus) wasn't usually described as fat in classical sources. Instead, he was often shown as a beautiful but effeminate man of unremarkable build, with long, flowing hair. Fat Bacchus was seen more in Renaissance and Baroque interpretations, although not as often as the predominant classical-bodied figure.

Some interesting variations, image-heavy )
men_in_full: (Default)

One of my favorite paintings of a fat and imposing man is the Italian Baroque portrait of the Tuscan nobleman and soldier Alessandro del Borro. Some think Velasquez was the painter; others attribute it to Bernardo Strozzi, probably because of its more naturalistic style.

Del Borro studied mathematics and mechanics, but got drawn into the mid-seventeenth century wars against the Ottoman Empire. His command earned him the title "The Terror of the Turks," and ultimately led to his death in a naval battle against the Ottomans off the coast of Corfu in 1656.

In this painting, you really feel del Borro's size. Monroe Beardsley in Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (pg. 300) points out that by bringing del Borro right up to the front of the visual space, the figure doesn't just "tell" of his overwhelming size, but in a way "shows" it:
... Suppose we want to represent a bulky, massive man. We can do so by drawing a small figure at some distance, and setting up the perspective and other objects nearby in such a way that we can read him as a big man, though the shape that represents him is small. But if we bring him up close to the picture-plane, as a portraitist would do, and make him crowd the available picture-space, then the area that represents him will itself be bulky and, if we wish it, massive; here the bulkiness of the man is represented by the bulkiness of the design area. See, for example, Goya's Colossus, Plate VII. We say, colloquially, that we "feel" his bulkiness; we don't merely infer it. [An example is found in] such a painting as the unflattering portrait of Field Captain Alessandro del Borro (date unknown, Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin) attributed, probably incorrectly, to Velasquez. Here the impression of bulk is further increased by placing the Captain between pillars and setting the spectator's eye level at his feet."
Unlike Beardsley, I don't think the portrait of del Borro is "unflattering" at all. As I see it, he stands as sturdy as the column next to him. He's not an epicene dandy, or some symbol of self-indulgence. He peers out from behind his small eyes with a beady stare, daring the viewer to challenge him.

The close proximity, and our lowered vantage point, makes him look especially tall. Also, the vantage point adds to the imposing physicality of his size. (ETA:) David Addison Small does the same thing here with the enormous angelic figure. Seattle artist Brian Murphy, whom I wrote about earlier, uses the same perspective in image #12 in his gallery. In both paintings, the belly bears down on the viewer with an almost overpowering weight. Murphy's #13, #15, #16, #18 and #19 also emphasize the size and breadth of the foreshortened face in the same way. (/ETA)

True, del Borro is not "beautiful" in a classical sense. But while fat women in older paintings may often be idealized, the fat man seldom is. We see him "as he is," and are invited to take him on his own terms.
men_in_full: (Default)
The Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) left us with the term "rubenesque" to refer to the large figure. It's almost always applied to women, though, as his paintings of women are more familiar. However, as [livejournal.com profile] jennie_jay points out in the comments from a few days ago, Rubens did paint larger men as well.

One striking example is his "Bacchus," below. (Click for larger view.)



Rubens paints this fat male figure with a somewhat dozy face, slight edema of the lower legs, dimples, and cellulite. You can almost see his upper arms shake. But Ruben's Bacchus, as impressive as he is, doesn't project the same hand-over-flesh sensuousness as my Flemish favorite, Cornelius De Vos's Triumph of Bacchus.

First, there's Ruben's Bacchus's rather staged pose. He looks blankly off into the distance. The other figures seem preoccupied with either drinking it in or peeing it out, as the case may be. They look away from the viewer; one satyr even has his back turned. No one seems particularly happy, except maybe the urinating child. Bacchus's rich body dominates the visual field, but the action pulls us away from him, and while the colors are warm, the emotional tone is cool, distant, maybe even a little bored.

It may be that Rubens was trying to make a moralistic point ("Drink enough and this is what you look like," perhaps?)

Personally, I happen to like De Vos's Bacchus better, even if he isn't as artfully painted. He appeals more because he's engaged with those around him. He embraces the girl and is in turn caressed by her. The satyr on the right has helped himself to a handful of love handle, and we wonder what the other hand is doing. The little one chomps on the grapes Bacchus holds. While De Vos's god's eyes drift as they do in Rubens' painting, he langourously submits to the attention, and we who watch can feel him feel it. It's hard for a visual image to convey the sense of touch, yet De Vos does. Also, the two figures on either side of Bacchus look directly at us. They draw us in, offer to share. There's enough to go around, they seem to say.
men_in_full: (Default)


I love Cornelius De Vos's (d. 1651) "Triumph of Bacchus." It gives me a sensuous pleasure I've never really gotten from any other picture. The Flemish painters (like de Vos and his contemporary Rubens) appreciate flesh in a way not seen since the Paleolithic, and they don't skimp on it.

Dionysus (Bacchus) is most often thought of as the god of wine, but his domain includes fertility and abundance as well. He's shown in wildly different ways over the millenia, ranging from a bearded, long-haired man sometimes in women's dress, to a slender young man beautiful of face. Most images contain at least a touch of androgyny.

De Vos shows Bacchus's sexual blurring and plenitude by painting him as fat. Instead of a woman's robe, his body, while strong and solid, is clad in soft flesh like a garment, with almost-feminine breasts.

This Bacchus is hard to resist, placed as he is in the center of the painting. Every figure is in some relation to him except the drowsing Silenus, who still owes his sleep to the wine of the god.

De Vos's Bacchus appeals because he's engaged with those around him. He embraces the girl and is in turn caressed by her under his arm, that sanctuary of tender warmth. The little satyr chomps on the grapes Bacchus holds. The god's eyes may drift but he languorously submits to the attention, and we who watch can feel him experience it.

It's hard for a visual image to convey the sense of touch, yet De Vos does. Hands don't just rest on flesh, they actively pursue it. The satyr on the right has helped himself to a handful of the god's great fleshy side, and we wonder where the other hand is and what it is doing.

Also, the two figures on either side of Bacchus look directly at us. They draw us in, offer to share. There's enough to go around, they seem to say. Rather than just watching a tableau, we're invited to take part in a mystery.

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