L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, May 24, 2019

The scabbard as wardrobe - discretions of the "antique"

In contemporary and later depictions, ancient Greek warriors were most frequently portrayed as going into battle nearly or entirely nude. Which seems, for several reasons, rather... awkward? In later, slightly more prudish eras, all that male nudity could be problematic for artists whose intention was to depict one or more of the celebrated ancient heroes. One device employed to avoid so much full-frontal "military splendor" can often be found in French paintings of the Neoclassical period: a warrior's scabbard proved convenient for obscuring his most masculine attributes. This worked well enough while the subject - Achilles, Castor and Pollux, Leonidas, etc. - struck a beautifully static "antique" pose, but we might imagine that any sort of real-life movement - say, walking? - would be rather uncomfortable thus encumbered.

Achille donne à Nestor le prix de la sagesse, by Joseph-Désiré Court, 1820.
Hélène délivrée par Castor et Pollux, by Jean-Bruno Gassies, 1817.
Léonidas aux Thermopyles, by Jacques-Louis David, 1814.
Guerrier avec épée tirée, by Jean-Eugène-Charles Alberti, 1808.
Briséis pleurant Patrocle, by Léon Cogniet, 1815.
Hélène délivrée par Castor et Pollux, by Amable-Paul Coutan, circa 1820s.
Thésée vainqueur du Minotaure, by François-Joseph Heim, 1807.
Egisthe croyant découvrir le corps d'Oreste mort, découvre celui de Clytemnestre, by Auguste-Hyacinthe Debay, 1823.
Soldat romain au repos, académie, by François-Xavier Fabre, 1788. In this case the covering is the attached sword belt, the baldric.
Antigone donnant la sépulture à Polynice, by Sébastien Norblin, 1825. Someone's arm also proves a useful aid to modesty.
Les Sabines / L'Intervention des Sabines / Les Sabines arrêtant le combat entre les Romains et les Sabins, by Jacques-Louis David, 1799.

1 comment:

  1. How quirky that, despite the covering, so many of these have visible "bits." But these are all delightful.