daily dose

There’s something very strange about constant unknown becoming your reality for a period of time. Driving down a new road, if you have the luxury to close your eyes for a few moments, and know that when you open them, you have absolutely zero idea what you will see, because you’ve never in your entire life been down this road before. It could be a crop of corn fields to your right, waiting for your eyes to lazily flick them over, finding the straight and narrow path between the soils’ sentries, leading farther to more unknown. A brightly painted truck with glowing green lights. Or palm trees backlit by a churning blue grey sky, swaying in the twilight breeze. Or it could just be the metaphor for how we travel through time. What you see, what you don’t see–that’s not truly the point. That feeling of anticipation, knowing that whatever it is you’ll open your eyes to will be completely brand new is an amazing feeling. It’s fun to get excited about. Sometimes, even the most mundane things become enthralling. For example, I can’t tell you how many 7-11’s I’ve walked into back home to get a snack while getting gas or to grab a candy bar, etc. A lot. Yet in Thailand, 7-11’s are more prolific than starbucks. One bus station we were in had three 7-11’s just in one terminal. It’s insane. And you’d think, oh, I’ve been in a million liquor stores, nothing special there. But they are SO different. Thai’s love their 7-11’s, and they are home to full meals of fried rice and pat thai just as much as they are a place for nine different Lay’s potato chip flavors. The cashiers are jacks of all trades, heating up water and operating microwave ovens and tending cash and yelling over the counter calling for the next person in line. Now, zoom out. Yes, you’ve seen palm trees backlit by stormy skies before. Yes you’ve snacked in 7-11’s before. But maybe you haven’t seen them. These eyes that have been saturated with the knowledge that each sight holds no guarantees that it will align with what it ‘should’ look like. This mind that is expecting the unfamiliar as each moment unfolds. And yet, these unfamiliarities were always there. I think in some ways, that’s the key to staying right where you are, right now, wherever that happens to be. Expecting nothing of the mundane, except that it has the potential to be extraordinary. 

And that’s a beauty. Making everyday, routine things fresh and novel. Warping your perception of time. Creating a sense of unity after you realize that the separation between realities is not as disparate as it initially feels. And that at some point before you, someone has lived all of this. Bringing that excitement for discovering rice cakes or green mangoes with you, as you rediscover your backyard, the back of your hand, a long forgotten hobby. And invigorating your sense of wonder for the norms, and all the minute details that make life so much more interesting. 

three pennies for your thoughts

I always know it’s going to be a good week when I wake up early and feel like cooking. Even if I don’t capitalize on 5am yoga because it’s too cold, sometimes sitting on my phone for an hour getting some universe inspiration from the internet gets me going just as much. And if it’s an extra good week, I might feel like writing something too.

So here’s three completely disconnected thoughts from the vault. Maybe one’ll invert your hump day perspective.

crazy to think the first time I left the country was less than three years ago. travel is so beautiful to me. think how much has changed for you in three years.

“If you can’t see the river, you’re in the river” ~~ Buddhist adage

I don’t want to be like those songs where someone can start singing along to the lyrics in the second verse even when they’ve never heard it before. I want EJ. Tiny dancer. Make ya feel something somewhere sometime. Make ya sway and sing along, because you’ve been here with me before, or maybe you haven’t, but either way you know it’s a beautiful thing.

the only thing that matters

So I had this thought, as I should’ve been studying for FAR, as I saw that “Your Facebook friend **** ***** is on Instagram as @thehappycouple”. And I was confused. So my inner procrastinator swiped right to see what was happening with this. And I see a nice little IG profile, with cute pictures of this girl (who I don’t know too well) and her boyfriend (who I’ve never met). But I know “of” them. Classic small town Chaptown relationship. Everyone knows everyone, if at least from afar, or “their name sounds familiar, but I’d have to see their face”. Regardless, the main point here is I’m more of an objective viewer, because I don’t know these people well. My first thought: damn, this is rad. Their pictures told a story and their love for each other saturated every facet of the page. My second thought: kind of interesting. To go out of your way to make a separate Instagram account to put your conjoined relationship into the world as its own entity. What a unique niche social media has created, simply by creating the opportunity for that to happen. Next thought: dang, what if they broke up. Now, this isn’t the prettiest thought that’s ever crossed my mind, and I was aware of that. I’m only human. And to be fair, it half came from an empathetic girl space (we’ve all had our hearts broken, and gone a little crazy obsessive looking at old pictures and texts, remembering how he thought of that caption, or the inside joke from that road trip. We’re girls. It’s our way, mostly). And I thought, dang, if they broke up, that’s really going to suck to have your previous happiness shoved down your throat when you go to delete this account, because if it was me I don’t think I’d leave it floating around in cyberspace, a lost satellite orbiting your now non-existent love. No thanks, that thing would come down real quick. And then comes the hurt. Now, you’re not only broken up, but you also have to delete this stupid account that somehow made the relationship more tangible. It’s not just changing your profile picture. It’s realer. You went out of your way to create this Instagram profile, and now you have to go out of your way to delete this Instagram profile. Next next thought: it revolved more around other people. If they break up, someone who was following this account and enjoyed their cute foodie road trip posts might wonder where the account went, and then realize exactly what happened. To make this LOVE so publicly declared, so out there, creates a lot of vulnerability. Because what if down the line it stops working? What if it crashes and burns, and here they said ILY all over Instagram, and now everyone knows they’re not saying it anymore. It felt like that the more proud you are to be so in love with someone, and the more you shout it out in real life or over the internet, the more fallout you’ll feel from friends, family, and perhaps even casual social media followers if it doesn’t work. Like a seismograph… the bigger the first quake, the larger the correlated aftershocks would be, as compared to if the first one had been more of a tremble. And all that love you were so sure about, was somehow misled. Maybe you shouldn’t have been posting about it as vehemently or so proud of it in the first place, if your final destination wasn’t meant to be shared between you two; if you eventually wouldn’t have that love.

And then I was immediately pissed at myself. Because that SUCKS. And it’s BS. If you’re in love, tell the whole freaking world. So what if later down the line you aren’t in love anymore? Then you adapt, and change, and do your best to make it work, but if it just doesn’t then you accept it and keep on pursuing whatever makes you happy, even if it no longer includes that person. No one is a fortune teller, and although I do think you should choose wisely with the information that you have on hand with who you give your heart to, sometimes you just don’t get a choice, and you’re where you’d be regardless of whether or not you used your head. Shit happens. So if it doesn’t work, and you fall out of love or breakup, all that I think you could look back on that Instagram account with is joy, for having felt the highs that are now allowing you to feel this low. What else are we here for except to love? And if we love enough and are grounded and excited enough about that love to make a relationship Instagram account, or put down both names on a lease, or give it a certificate of marriage, then you have to go all in, and share that love you feel so strongly with everyone, because they may be inspired to bring a little love into their day. And maybe they wouldn’t think about the backend of “what if this love fails?” and would instead choose to be vulnerable, because more love is always better, no matter how it’s expressed.

“Don’t be afraid to fall in love. It’s the only thing that matters in life. The only thing. Do you understand what I’m telling you? … You just fall in love with as many things as possible.”

Fearlessly spread your love. It’s worthy, I promise.

Just like my fearless love for Corgis. 😉

Costa Rican Surprise

Sooooo I’m in Costa Rica for spring break 🙂 when timmelabroad returns we come back with a vengeance, so might as well hop right back in. Yesterday we got away from tourist traps for the day. Got a little dirty, found ash her new mail order Tico hubby, rented some boogie boards, & got a little uncomfortable.
Traveling is a risk, of course. But the greatest risk to me seems to “travel” and never have an authentic experience. If we go to other countries for their beauty and the variety they offer to your usual aesthetics or activity base, that’s excellent. An all inclusive resort, maxing out the R&R levels, I get the appeal. But to deprive yourself from exchanging little moments with people vastly different than your usual group of humans seems like a recipe to deprive yourself of the realization that they’re not vastly different at all. In fact, we’re all experiencing a shockingly universal human condition. “Laughter is universal”, Ashton said as we struggled to communicate with a local Liberian family. I coerced them into letting us borrowing their soccer ball, which turned into getting them to pass it around with us, which after about ten minutes quickly pinnacled with me poorly trapping the ball, tripping on a rock, eating TOTAL ish and going down hard, I’m talking butt-to-sand, SOS, feet-have-lost-contact-with-Earth, we’ve-got-a-gravitational-problem-and-it’s-called-clumsy, hard. Initiate laughter by all parties, inviting their guards down, chatting away and practicing the opposite’s language in earnest, finding new ways to connect with this ten year old boy and his thirteen year old cousin over a game of pickup soccer and some sandy cheeks, since we have everything and nothing in common with them, simultaneously. Reir. It knows no race, no color, no age, no gender, no SES, no disability. If we were put in anyone’s shoes, chances  are we would react similarly to their situation as they have.
Travel far. The more I travel, the more I realize how beautiful humanity is. There is bad, there is shame, there is lack of connection. To be sure, there is fear. But also in each of us, there is goodness, no matter where you’re from or why you’re there (or if you think you have the answers to these questions or not). 

Later that day, a man at a restaurant tried to earn our business, in competition with the next door sodaria (cafe). He showed us how there was a rotating fan near a table in the back of the open door patio, and told us how it was his favorite table and we would be cool while we ate. The prices were cheap, the food on other customers plates looked appetizing, and we were starved after a day at the beach. He said “fan”; we chorused “say no more”. As we nodded that we’d like to sit and eat, he showed us to the table and in decent English said, “thank you for trusting me”. Simple. Probably the result of a slightly off translation, since no one would ever say that to you in America when you told them you want to eat at their restaurant. And whether or not he intentionally put meaning behind those words, they were out in the world now, floating from him towards us. And how strange is that? Because in actuality, we did trust him. Brasilito is a more authentic Tico town than the souvenir-laden, tourist-saturated Tamarindo right down the road (aka “Tamagringo” to locals, which is legitimately hilarious to me). It was getting dark, we’re three young girls, and thanks to the lack of window tint on our lovely Suzuki Jimny we had just been gruffly invited to join a mixed bag of surfers and Costa Ricans outside the town’s only bar not 100 yards away. We were trusting him, just by walking into that restaurant instead of going back to our Airbnb and making pasta. Because that’s what you have to do when you travel–you have to trust where sometimes you otherwise wouldn’t–and those moments of vulnerability can be the birthplace for total beauty and insight. Even if the realization is that you can only have experiences that you are willing to let yourself have; which seems painfully obvious, yet takes on another meaning when you live it, and reflect on it, and talk to other people about it, and refine it. And that echoes into your life, and is tangible, and is something to be taken with you long after your tan fades and you forget the name of that restaurant where you had the best $7 ceviche of your life. Sometimes you gotta risk it to get the biscuit, ehh? 

  

  

  

 

  

  

  

  

  

      
    
    
 

Content

Blast from the past, timmelabroad has resurrected! I missed you guys, and I missed writing. Good to be back. I’m in a new class called Self and Identity, and each week we have to answer a journal topic. This week, the question was, “Being content; what does that mean for my life?”Thought it might be fun to share with you all as a little daily dose:

Have you ever seen the movie “About Time”? If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, so I’ll just explain that my main take away from the film was that a life lived to the fullest is a culmination of days lived to the fullest, and a day lived to the fullest is a combination of moments lived to the fullest. And a moment lived to the fullest is afforded with a mindful attitude tending towards joy, playfulness, positivity, and loyalty. Boiled down, the root of all those lovely adjectives is, of course, love. So if you do each basic act in each mundane moment of your daily life with the scales tipping towards love, chances are that’s going to roll up to an evening at the end of your day where you can look back and think, “Wow. I had fun today. I laughed today. I told someone I loved them today. And maybe I made someone else’s ‘today’ a little better because I did those things.”

Repeat upward spiraling joy, playfulness, positivity, and loyalty.

Repeat love.

This cycle will undoubtedly add to your pile of ‘good things’ in this world, just as it will make the pile of ‘good things’ of people close to you expand as well. And of course, it goes without saying that not every day is going to be rainbows and puppies. Life is hard a lot of the time, and sometimes it seems like the problem in front of you is consuming your life, whether it be rooted in financials, health, relationships, social, work, school, etc. You get a speeding ticket or crack your iPhone and it feels like your whole day could never recover from this one souring event. Your mind keeps touching back on it, like a loose tooth, checking to see if it’s still loose. Perhaps it’s something bigger, like a serious illness in your immediate family or getting laid off from your job. Or something even worse, like working your whole life for money because you think it will make you successful, and this success will make you happy, only to look back and find out that you had all the riches in the world in the beginning and left your gold along the way as your relationships and little joys succumbed to this drive for “more”. Either way: it’s not going to be easy to be so quick to pull out the love in each and every moment of each and every day. And that’s okay. Feel those emotions, soak in them, let them overwhelm you—but just for a short time. To waste more than a relatively short time on these things in our lives that produce anything but love is the perfect recipe to roll out of bed one morning ten years from now and think, “Holy shit. I am not at all content with my life.”

So what is the perfect recipe for contentment? Hey man, I’d love to know too. I can’t claim to be any sort of authority on the matter, but I do know what I’ve experienced in my young 21 years. I’m still learning, but what I think I’ve gotten so far goes like this:

  1. Live each day’s little moments with purposeful love.
  2. Be grateful. Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
  3. Whenever you have a ‘choice’ moment to do/say/create something kind, choose to do/say/create it.
  4. Reflect on your today, your yesterday, your yesteryear. Reflect, but don’t dwell.
  5. Identify the small things that give you a content feeling. As life begins to become busy and stress filled, be steadfast: push these simple joys aside later rather than sooner.

As for me, being content means reading a book on a lazy Sunday. It’s summer time barbeques. It’s dogs. It’s San Onofre, watching the sunset before a bonfire. It’s losing track of time, and not caring to find out how long your perspective has been shifted. It’s weeknight family dinners. It’s texts that make me smile a small smile, when I don’t even realize I’m smiling until someone asks who I’m talking to. It’s the freedom of travel. It’s being alone sometimes. It’s laughter with friends. It’s knowing I have ten people I could call and talk to anything about, and thinking, god, how lucky am I for those friends and family who I get to call my people.

Such small moments become pieces of days. Such small days become pieces of years. Such small years make up our small lives. Making your life content, happy, and filled with love is the most basic choice you have! And the coolest part? You get to make that choice in the most basic of life’s moments. Now. And now. There goes another. Now.

French Riviera

St. Paul de Vence, Nice, Eze, Monaco, Monte Carlo… Playground of the rich, the famous, and me.

The weekend started at 5am on Saturday morning, and by 11am, we got off the bus in the hilltop medieval village of St. Paul de Vence. It’s not hard to see why it’s a renowned artistic hub and haven for European celebrities; the streets are tiny and embedded with stone designs, there’s vines growing on nearly all the walls and doors, and we covered the length of the town in about ten minutes walking. Quaint is an understatement. And art EVERYWHERE. So many contemporary pieces, molto bella.

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Next stop, Nice! We headed out for a historical walking tour and ditched it within twenty minutes. There’s history here, but not much. This place is about the beach, the views, and the luxury. We got lost in the little markets and popped in a gorgeous fabric and upholstery store. The streets are so colorful and clean, it’s hard to take it all in and make yourself believe it’s real.

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We headed up to the waterfall backed overlook point, Parc de la Colline du Château for some amazing sunset views of the coastline before wandering down to the beach for some beachfront sangria. It was basically perfect.

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After a nice hotel dinner and an en-suite celebratory bottle of champagne for Marley’s 21st birthday at midnight, we crashed. Big day tomorrow in the truest playground of the rich and famous, ya dig?

But first, Eze. We stopped off at this beachfront medieval village for one purpose and one purpose only: the Fragonard perfume factory. I’m not naming names but let’s just say the sales women did their jobs very well in convincing everyone that a wholesale souvenir from here would make any girl happy. It did.

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And the last stop, the Principality of Monaco? It was just unreal. A verifiable tax haven ruled by Prince Albert II, it’s one of the most densely populated, safest, and richest countries in the world. They have 1 police man for every 7 citizens… like, what? We split our day walking around the Prince’s Palace area and surrounding port before heading to Monte Carlo. I really honestly can now say I’ve never felt poorer than being in this place. It’s like all of Vegas’ money, glamour, and gambling were concentrated into less than one square mile, injected with aristocracy, and given yachts. Such an amazing experience, but I also didn’t have the urge to set up camp here (not like I could afford it anyways).

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All in all, an eye opening weekend. Ciao French Riviera… See you in like 15 years when I’m rich!

The Evolution of Venus

Ciao! Want to know what I’ve been up to these past two weeks? Writing essays! Booooo. But since this is all apart of the “study” abroad experience, I figured maybe if you read the final product you could feel like you’re here with me (and hey, maybe you’ll even learn something too). This is my final research essay for my Art History 2: High Renaissance to Present class. I LOVE this class. I’ve never taken art before and I have completely fallen in love with studying it, no doubt thanks to my amazing professor and the fact that I’m in the exact city where some of the world’s greatest art was created and is still available for my whimsical viewing.

Spoiler alert, it’s really long and mainly discusses female sexuality. I honestly won’t be offended if you don’t read it. I repeat, participation is NOT required. Go in with your eyes open my friends…

THE EVOLUTION OF VENUS: A Comparison of Four Masters

            Art, like history, tends to repeat itself. Mythological figures have captured the fascination of the human imagination since ancient Greek times, so it comes as no surprise that some of the world’s greatest works of art share this common subject matter. The powerful, transcendent quality of a painting that tells the story of classical gods and goddesses can be illustrated effectively by delving into Venus, the Roman goddess of love and sexuality. By analyzing and comparing four Venus’—by Botticelli, Tiziano, Cabanel, and Manet—it is possible to glean a holistic view of how society’s depiction and perception of this mythological juggernaut has evolved over the course of history. Ultimately, an in depth exploration of these works will reveal a larger artistic theme within the context of sexuality and the female nude: truly, art is a necessary expression of the society it was created for.

But who is the Roman goddess Venus? Also known as the Greek goddess Aphrodite, she commands sexual love among deities, humans, and animals. She is synonymous with love, sexuality, and beauty. There are two anecdotes concerning her origin. Hesiod asserts that Ouranos (Sky) was having intercourse with his partner Gaia (Earth) when he was attacked and castrated by his son, Kronos. After throwing his father’s genitals into the sea, a foam frothed to form a maiden. When the genitals landed upon Cypress, Venus stepped ashore in all her immortal glory. Her name derives from the Greek word, aphrogenes, or “foam-born”, as a testament to this supposed origin. On the other hand, Homer claims that she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. In either case, Venus is one of the original twelve Olympians.[1]

Throughout classical mythology, Venus is a forefront character in several myths. Typically, she entertained herself by forcing deities to mate with mortals, creating or destroying love and lust, or by utilizing her cestus, a garb that rendered her sexually irresistible, to stir up action.[2] Considering Venus’ aesthetically pleasing nature and strong sexual themes, it is no wonder that she is a popular subject among classical, medieval, Renaissance, and modern art alike. [3]

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With this sturdy foundation of Venus origin and mythological significance, it is time to proceed to one of the most important undertakings in art: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Now located in the Uffizi Gallery, this early Renaissance work was painted from 1482 until 1486 for a member of the Medici family, and it was the first tempera on canvas created in Tuscany. The story potentially draws from a multitude of debated sources, most transparently Ovid’s Metamorphoses[4], Poliziano’s “Stanzas”[5], and references from Ficino’s interpretation of the birth. Botticelli captures the moment Venus just arose from the sea perched on her symbolic seashell while Zephyr and Aura gently blow her along towards the shore and the awaiting Grace, who will cover Venus with her cape. The fact that Venus is nude attests to Botticelli’s mythologies in a reflection of the slightly more liberal era that featured “a society intent on reviving antiquity on a new scale, but now less for the moral lessons… than for private delight”.[6] Painting women nude was still not typical for the time, and only considered non-blasphemous in this case because of the higher meaning of the work. To Ficino, Venus’ birth in this fashion was “an allegory of the birth of beauty in the mind of humanity” in the typical Neoplatonic philosophy that attempted to connect classical thought with Christian themes.[7] Due to the quasi-religious meaning associated with the work, endless symbolic and allegorical connections can be drawn between mythology and spiritual beatific themes. For example, the wind gods’ unseemly similarity to angels and her birth borne of water recalls a baptism, much like the Renaissance signifies a “rebirth”. Moreover, it is Botticelli’s presence in the work that allows it to be more than “merely decorative… the highly stylized treatment of the surface is what elevates the picture to allegory”.[8] The Venus Pudica can definitely be credited for the iconography of Botticelli’s Venus, as she is covering her private parts shyly. Since we know that Botticelli studied the famous Medici Venus, it is speculated that he referenced this work in the creation of his own Venus as well. It is clear then that Botticelli’s Magnum Opus elevated the mythological subject of Venus to new allegorical and symbolic heights in the fashion of spiritual and aesthetic beauty that pervaded the society of the Early Renaissance era.

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Venus now transforms to a nude woman veiled in the previously spirituality elevated nude goddess. In this manner, Tiziano begins to address the figure of the nude woman by utilizing the cloak of the nude Venus in his work, Venus of Urbino. Tiziano, hailing from the Venetian school of art, celebrates the richness of color that was so distinct from the Florentine school that focuses more intently on form and drawing lines.[9] In fact, Tiziano found inspiration for this work in his master, Giorgione, with his Sleeping Venus (1510). Completed in 1538 for the Duke of Urbino Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, this oil on canvas is rife with hidden meanings. The scene simply shows a young nude woman reclining in a bedchamber in an opulent Renaissance palace, but further investigation shows the work to be an allegory of marriage and eroticism. As a wedding present, the Duke commissioned it for his future wife, which almost certainly points to a celebration of marital love and intimacy.[10] Some sources even speculate that it was meant as a sort of “‘teaching’ model to Giulia Varano, the young wife of eroticism, fidelity and motherhood” and thus provided a reminder to the young bride, indicating the success of her marriage hinged partly on her ability and willingness to fulfill her marital obligations to her husband.[11] Her beauty and sensuality point to the erotic allegory that Tiziano so masterfully creates by glazing up to fifteen thin, barely perceptible layers of oil paint. The resultant contrast of her light skin against the darkness of the curtain and background scene evokes a glowing softness that pervades the entire work.[12] However, the young mortal’s erotic allegory is elevated to her present sensuous and erotic level significantly through her interpretation as Venus, the goddess of love and sexuality. Because (and only because) she is disguised as the goddess, she is able to stare and touch and remain so totally unfazed by her sensual display of nudity in front of the viewer. This veiled emergence of the female nude as a genre begins in the High Venetian Renaissance, and it was commonly masked by the title of “Venus” thereafter. Curiously, the dog at the foot of the bed, typically seen as a symbol of loyalty and faithfulness, is sleeping on the job. Whether Tiziano’s intention in having a ‘sleeping’ dog was to act as a precursor to the increasingly promiscuous depictions of the nude female disguised as Venus, there is no way to know. This new installation in the evolution of Venus is a monumental milestone that will pave the way for future advancements of the mortal nude woman’s persona, with the goddess Venus more and more becoming an illustrative means to an end.

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Cabanel’s masterpiece, The Birth of Venus (1863), is one of the most famous works of art of the mid-nineteenth century. As an esteemed French academic painter and a determined opponent of the Impressionists, Cabanel and his respective colleague’s stubborn unwillingness to accept upcoming ideas and different sources of inspiration eventually led to the unraveling of the Academy’s Salons. The oil on canvas painted in the virtuoso technique shows an aesthetically idealized nude reclining Venus in a euphoric moment. She is one with her aquatic surroundings and cherubs playfully float around her. She asks nothing from the viewer with her peeking gaze. She makes no attempt to cover herself with her willowy arms, and instead she coyly bends one knee to shadow her sexuality. The implicit hypocrisy of the “mythological theme is indeed a pretext for the portrayal of a nude figure, which, though idealised, is nonetheless depicted in a lascivious pose” and ultimately allowed Cabanel to safely introduce eroticism without offending public morality.[13] And since Cabanel was a celebrated French academic painter of the time, he took the smallest possible step outside of the sphere of public opinion with this work. His initial goal was to afford his audience pleasure, and to that end the “goddess’s idealized form… [and] unattainable aura” puts distance between her and the viewer, just because she is titled Venus. And Cabanel did indeed know his audience well, since this was exactly what the French aristocracy of the 1860s needed to match their shallow pretense of virtue and obsession with frivolity.[14] The inaccessible qualities of the goddess allow the viewer to comfortably analyze the work without having to imagine the subject as a mortal nude woman. All in all, this was a mistake since Cabanel himself was quoted to have said, “usually the subject is merely a pretext to hint at or to express an underlying ideal, an ideal for which the public is more receptive on account of its familiarity with the subject.” [15] He knew that if he produced a work of surreal beauty featuring a woman of idealized aesthetics that the public wouldn’t want to look any farther into his real intentions… which of course was to present a nude woman who chose to be called Venus so that she could advertise her sexuality and command her volition. She sees the viewer, nonchalantly locks his gaze, and subsequently appears utterly apathetic about her state of nudity in his presence. She is tranquil, an ascended female being. And so Cabanel cunningly produced a portrait of a nude woman who is using Venus to her own benefit.

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Cabanel’s Venus is a tame kitten when compared to Manet’s lioness, Olympia. Although it was created in the same year, Manet’s depiction of the nude female cannot be ignored in the progression of Venus. At this time, Impressionism was the name, and political indifference was the game. For example, the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 had almost no impact on Impressionist imagery and subject choice; they just continued to create genre subject paintings.[16] Manet’s shock to the 1865 Salon depicts a young prostitute lounging on a bed. Her left hand clasping her female center shouts, “You can look, but first you must pay”. Behind her, a black female servant bestows a bouquet of flowers upon her—certainly a gift from a client. Most importantly, her gaze is simultaneously cool indifference and daring defiance: “Venus has become a prostitute, challenging the viewer with her calculating look”.[17] Manet’s stylistic technique was an attempt to depart from the Academy even further. His “brush strokes are rougher and the shifts in tonality [are] more abrupt than those found in traditional academic painting”, such as Cabanel, who adopted the accepted canon of the period.[18] To the Academy, this work was an ambush from all sides. However, Manet’s intention was purposeful, if ostentatious. He chose to debase the goddess of love and sexuality to the ‘un-idealized’ nude portrait of a mortal prostitute. Manet crafts a full reversal of the female nude and tenaciously extorts the virtues of Venus to prove a point: this is reality! Prostitutes exist! In this modern society, certain women control their own sexuality. See how this woman does not ask for your love, but simply takes her freedom. She alludes to her supposed Venus-ness solely to bring attention to the sharp contrast between their existences. This crucial step embodies the death of Venus and the birth of reality that society was not quite prepared for.

Naturally, each individual experiences a personal evolution when experiencing these works in succession. To me, it is the progression from eggshells to elephants, childhood to late adolescence, and fear to knowledge. It is important to keep in mind that the Venus perspective is also only a temporal slice in the ever-changing topic of female sexuality. It can be extended backwards from the Venus Pudica to cave drawings, barbarians, and the preceding unknown; and also forward to the invention of the pin-up, the modern art form of pornography, and whatever lies ahead unbeknownst to us all. As for the four works analyzed, each evokes a separate and distinct feeling for me. Botticelli seems necessary, formed, and as though Venus is metaphorically dipping her toe in the water to test its temperature. Here we are on eggshells, fearful of our own power. However, there is also grace and dignity in the imposed naivety. Tiziano begins to wade in by asking questions in a manner that can easily be interpreted as less prying than we truly intended. We are curious, but not yet confident. Cabanel is pure beauty. The optical pleasure of this work makes me melt, just as he desired. But my infatuation is also in part because of the sneaky teenager aura that surrounds it. By all outward appearances, we play by the rules… but really, our intelligence and furtiveness allows us to do exactly what we want despite the confines of our youth. We know what things are, we know how to get these things, and we know how to not get caught getting them. And then we have the final coup. Manet arrives like a crashing elephant, when in reality Olympia is already the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. The moment of realization: all that came before was child’s play, and we were too afraid to face the carnal knowledge that existed within us from the very beginning. I don’t love this work, but I do realize its necessity. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

If Venus stood at the top of a mountain, then artistic genius forced the nude female to climb the mountain and descend the opposite side. To begin the climb, the nude woman was unable to be a nude woman; instead, she had to be a mythological figure that possessed qualities of spiritual ascension in order to be depicted at all (Botticelli). As the uphill slope increases, the nude woman was portrayed, but she had to use the cloak of the goddess Venus in order to reach her full allegorical potential (Tiziano). The pinnacle of the mountain represents the transition phase. Venus stands atop it: all who climbed upwards toward her needed her validation in order to reach this height. However, all who come after her is purely woman, who instead is now exploiting Venus to achieve her own higher meaning. After a gentle descent, there is the idealized nude woman of perfect aesthetic beauty that is just out of reach because she insists to be called Venus (Cabanel). Last but not least arrives the base of the backside of the mountain, which ends in a sheer drop off. Here descends the prostitute, an ‘unidealized’ nude who brashly flaunts the ancient sexual prowess of woman. She calls herself Venus only for ironic effect, and to mock all those who came before her and touted the name with dignity (Manet). Those women depicted before her were not in control of their own sexuality, and hence were not fully free. The illusion is shattered, and society must begin to publicly face the reality that Venus couldn’t possibly survive when held in comparison to modern woman. And so we have a verifiable mythological martyr in the evolution of Venus: from literal birth to essential death, she always reflected the needs of the society for which she was created. And moreover, we have truth from art. Bellissima.

[1] Hansen, William F. (105-06).

[2] Hansen, William F. (106-07).

[3] “Venus (mythology)”: Legacy in Art. New World Encyclopedia.

[4] “Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli at Uffizi Gallery in Florence.” Uffizi.org.

[5] “Birth of Venus.” Artble.

[6] Hartt and Wilkins. (346-7).

[7] Hartt and Wilkins. (346).

[8] Janson and Janson. (442-43).

[9] Franchi, Daniele. Class Lecture.

[10] “Venus of Urbino (1538).” Visual Arts Cork.

[11] “Venus of Urbino by Titian at Uffizi Gallery in Florence”. Uffizi.org.

[12] “Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538.” YouTube.

[13] “Alexandre Cabanel The Birth of Venus.” Musée D’Orsay.

[14] Chu, Petra Ten-Doesschate. (375).

[15] Sherer, Maya. “The Birth of Venus (1863), Alexandre Cabanel.”

[16] Adams, Laurie. (414).

[17] “Edouard Manet Olympia.” Musée D’Orsay.

[18] Kleiner, Fred S., and Helen Gardner. (353).

Bibliography

Adams, Laurie. A History of Western Art. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2001. 414-22. Print.

“Alexandre Cabanel The Birth of Venus.” Musée D’Orsay. Musée D’Orsay, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Birth of Venus.” Artble. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli at Uffizi Gallery in Florence.” Uffizi.org. Guide to the Uffizi Gallery Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Chu, Petra Ten-Doesschate. Nineteenth-Century European Art. New York: Abrams, 2003. 374-75. Print.

“Edouard Manet Olympia.” Musée D’Orsay. Musée D’Orsay, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Franchi, Daniele. Class Lecture. 12 Mar. 2015.

Hansen, William F. Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 105-08. Print.

Hartt, Frederick, and David G. Wilkins. History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1994. 345-47. Print.

Janson, H. W., and Anthony F. Janson. History of Art: The Western Tradition. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2004. Print.

Kleiner, Fred S., and Helen Gardner. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Concise Western History. Boston, MA,: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. 352-53. Print.

Sherer, Maya. “The Birth of Venus (1863), Alexandre Cabanel.” Academia.edu. Academia, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Titian, Venus of Urbino, 1538.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Venus (mythology).” New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 2 Apr. 2008. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Venus of Urbino (1538).” Visual Arts Cork. Encyclopedia of Art Education, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

“Venus of Urbino by Titian at Uffizi Gallery in Florence”. Uffizi.org. Guide to the Uffizi Gallery Museum, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.