Monday, May 12, 2008

Nicolas Poussin painting a model for Anatomical Venuses?

A report from the field, compliments of my good friend Evan, co-proprietor of Obscura Antiques and Oddities:

I was taking in the wonderful "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions," exhibition currently up at the Metropolitan Museum, when I was struck by his famous “Venus (or a Nymph) Spied On by Satyrs” [above, top]. The falling of the drapery, the hand gesture, and the blatantly revelatory pose - all very, very reminiscent of the famous wax Venus models found at La Specola, the Jospehinum [above, bottom], and beyond.

No one will know exactly what Clemente Susini was thinking when he modeled his masterpiece, but I'd like to think that he was consciously or unconsciously referencing Poussin. The viewer, whether physician, student or casual admirer, becomes the Satyr, but our gaze is no longer lascivious or threatening; we are now dispassionately clinical. Just one difference, perhaps, between art and science.

It really is the most striking resemblance.

Images shown for your consideration and comparison:

Top: Nicolas Poussin, “Venus (or a Nymph) Spied On by Satyrs,"oil on canvas, circa 1627

Bottom: "Anatomical Venus," Wax model with human hair in rosewood and Venetian glass case; Workshop of Clemente Susini of Florence, 1781-1786, held by The Josephinum, Vienna, Austria

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