More from the Reviews.
"To depict a woman naked is to show her as Aphrodite, asserted St. Clement of Alexandria, the second century apologist; a good Christian should be horrified at the idea," writes Catharine Edwards in her review of "The Art of the Body". The human is not to be confused with the divine.
The ancient Greeks and we in much of our history, I think, would have been filled with awe at our first sight of the nude feminine body. Outside the sculptures of our temples, one wonders what we made of the encounter. But today, our conditioning is that of film, and the naked women might not evoke in us visions of the divine - our thoughts go to the dark films, the sensuous and suggestive forms and movements of our actresses, and the false throb of faked climaxes. We have gained much with photos and films, but the frozen sculptures with their limited means of production and privileged status as objects of worship held for us more wonder. The naked feminine body is no longer capable of invoking feelings of exaltation in us, there is something subterranean and sinister in our passions. Thanks to the subterfuge of enacted dramas compulsively and helplessly endured day in and day out.
The dissolution of the still form into transient images is a matter of regret, but the sculpture as a evocative and representative artifice is itself incomplete when compared with words, as in Odyssey:
Tyro began, whom great Salmoneus bred;
The royal partner of famed Cretheus' bed.
For fair Enipeus, as from fruitful urns
He pours his watery store, the virgin burns;
Smooth flows the gentle stream with wanton pride,
And in soft mazes rolls a silver tide.
As on his banks the maid enamour'd roves,
The monarch of the deep beholds and loves;
In her Enipeus' form and borrow'd charms
The amorous god descends into her arms:
Around, a spacious arch of waves he throws,
And high in air the liquid mountain rose;
Thus in surrounding floods conceal'd, he proves
The pleasing transport, and completes his loves.
A prose version of this:
"[Odysseus sees the ghosts of heroines in the underworld :] The first that I saw was high-born Tyro, daughter of great Salmoneos and wife of Kretheus son of Aiolos--such was her twofold boast. She fell in love with the river-god Enipeos, whose waters are the most beautiful of any that flow on earth; and she haunted his beguiling streams. But in place of Enipeos, and in his likeness, there came the god [Poseidon] who sustains and who shakes the earth. He lay with her at the mouth of the eddying river, and a surging wave, mountain-high, curled over them and concealed the god and the mortal girl."Water is all movement, and a wave more so, but a surging wave arches high and conceals the divine and their human lovers in their embrace. With words anything is possible : because its form is ever in the making, it is in a constant state of renewal and this half comprehension of the incomprehensible is what is perfect about it.