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Improving Aphrodite

big butt
At work, I was flipping through catalogs of fine-art reproductions, admiring the good ones, and groaning over the poor ones, when I noticed a trend that stopped me and sent me furiously turning pages back, saying "oh my god! Look what they're doing!"

Here, let me show you.

This is a resin model one can buy of the "Venus with Apple" in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen:

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Look familiar? Not quite?

Here's another, from Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" (one of my personal pet peeves is when companies take paintings--2 dimensional art--and turn them into models, 3D, as if the painter really was trying to express themselves in sculpture, he just didn't have the right materials, or something....but I'll try to put that aside for the moment.)

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Okay, these are hideous reproductions any way you look at it, I admit. But WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO VENUS, the !@#$&! Goddess of BEAUTY, for crying out loud?

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See this? It's not just the supermodels on the cover of Cosmo, it's not just Oprah, it's not just Kira Knightly or whatever her name is, being stretched and elongated on her movie posters. Oh, no! Even Botticelli's Venus and the Thorvaldsen Aphrodite are "too fat" and not bobble-headed enough to sell in today's market. They've been Slim-fasted and Photoshopped (or had ribs removed) because in someone's opinion, even neo-classic art lovers who would be looking to decorate their homes with reproductions of their favorite pieces would not want to look at such chubby women as artists like Botticelli chose, as models.

Can you BELIEVE this? The catalog is full of these, the "Three Graces", Rodin's women, and a poor "Hebe, Cupbearer of the Gods" who looks like she's been given silicon breast implants.

This is hilarious: it's revisionist art history, as done by the Photoshop-happy editors of Vogue.

[EDITED: If you're coming here linked from another post, I would ask you to please take a moment to read my follow-up post, here:]

[EDITED one more time to add: before you dash off an impassioned email to the manufacturer, ask yourself this question: IF the company were to refigure the statuettes to fix the problems, would you be willing to make a commitment to support their business by placing an order, and enlisting your friends and family to support their business as well?* By all means, use these images for educational purposes, and to help increase our cultural "visual literacy". But remember that outrage comes cheap on the internet--finding constructive solutions to problems is harder. Are you a part of the solution, or merely venting personal frustrations?

*Keep in mind that it's a manufacturer, with quantity wholesale requirements.]


( 107 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
I wish I could find this hilarious instead of upsetting. =/
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
BTW, I'm gonna blog about this as well - hope that's ok.
(no subject) - daphnep - Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daphnep - Jan. 23rd, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dear_amaranth - Jan. 23rd, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daphnep - Jan. 24th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dear_amaranth - Jan. 24th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - daphnep - Jan. 25th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sjo - Feb. 11th, 2009 01:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
That is utterly horrible.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)
oh for fuck's sake
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Wow. That is shocking.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
gross. they are not attractive at all anymore. it isnt art. it's trash.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Good grief.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Botticelli's waif-like recreation sort of cracks me up. If it was made in plastic and not resin you could sell it along side Malibu Barbie on the shelves at Target.

What the heck, why not? A huge part of the art world is based in commercialism, and this is such a blatant example of pandering to the masses. Unfortunately museums can't work exclusively off private donations and government funding - thus shit like this exists. This is the least amount of harm (arguable, I'm sure) for the greatest amount of good.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but we can market an art collection and still keep it tasteful, and respectful of the original art!

I mean, I hope we can, it's what I work full-time to try to do. I try to follow a bit of a standard, though. "If Monet saw this, would he recognize it as his? Would he be flattered, or horrified?" (Believe me, I throw out a lot of things that don't pass the Monet test. And I certainly hope Van Gogh had a really great sense of humor, cuz, you know, it's far too easy to play off that ear thing.)

I dunno...the pics with both original and new just make me giggle, they're so absurd.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
They look absurd shortened and pared down like that.
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I don't understand why they're not given realistic colors instead of that marble tone. You might as well go all the way. Venus with Apple's pubic area is way more sexualized. Next version, her legs are going to be a little bit apart. Some redneck is going to tell his complaining neighbors, "hey, it's art." And then his god-fearing neighbors are going to have that much worse a view of the classical pieces.

Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
Exactly; the originals suffer when their reputation gets marred by poor imitations. Our culture suffers when people get fed the plastic stuff and told that's what "fine art" wonder people think they're not interested in the subject.

But as for your suggestion for coloring them in: do you work for this company or something? Because they did that, on some of these hideous resin things...on some Rafael and da Vinci frescos and things. They turn them into reliefs, and then paint them hideous colors.
(no subject) - low_delta - Jan. 24th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - akicif - Jan. 31st, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - low_delta - Jan. 31st, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)


Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Holy shit! I tend to ignore repros, so I have not noticed this at all. Do you mind if I repost this to my own journal?

I also share your disdain for taking paintings and making them into "sculpture". WTF?
Jan. 23rd, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Nope, borrow the photos, spread it far and wide. The more people see it, the more they begin to notice it on their own, and the more resistant they become to being sucked in unawares.
(no subject) - paris_of_priam - Jan. 24th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
who's doing this? What company?
Jan. 24th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
OMG you *HAVE* to show this in your presentation to my class!
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Okay. Hey, that's a good idea, and easy enough to work in, since the Botticelli's there anyway.
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
How awful. On top of everything else, I can't stop looking at the tiny feet in the reproductions. It still wouldn't be forgivable if the reproductions were good, but it would make it a little less horrifying. I didn't even recognize "Venus with Apple". I'm not artsy, but even I recognize the original. Ack. I'm going away now.
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)

I know, it's like the more you look at them, the more you start to hate them.
(no subject) - low_delta - Jan. 24th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 24th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)

Seriously. That's awful for a whole lot of reasons.
Jan. 24th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Actually, I suddenly remembered that the flip side is also true. All of the action figure toys are getting more and more muscular than they ever were before. Although, encouraging little boys to eat buckets of stearoids so they can look like the new, muscle-bound version of Luke Skywalker is one thing. Turning renaissance art into an anorexic nightmare is another.
(no subject) - daphnep - Jan. 24th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
This post slipped by me, but I still wanted to weigh in....

When I first opened the post, and looked at the Aphrodite, I said to myself, "self, damn, they made her skinny". Yes, I did.

Then I thought about how they were making money by using less resin per piece... but that self arguement sort of went out the window due to the context of the art. Then I just thought.... this is just GD wrong!
After pondering it awhile, I've come to agree with you 100%, and the repros are really sculpted skinny to appeal to modern tastes... which are shaped in a large part by Madison Ave.

What irks me the most, is the bastardization of the original masterpieces. If you are going to knock off Raphael, by the Gods, copy him!
I'm even going to say that with a deep processing, I can say that the people who promote this are shallow f%$ks that are in only for the money; take the popularity of the masters, then meld current social mores just to sell product. Fair enough, but IMHO, lazy and cowardly.

In the end, mad or glad or sad, I'm just happy to be able to enjoy all kinds of female body types. It make me happy to not be particularly picky.

: D

Jan. 24th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
I don't even think they're doing it deliberately, though. The mold-maker isn't consciously saying "here, let's give female art aficionados a body-complex, and males an unrealistic expectation", they just made a little plastic version and it didn't look "right", so they "fixed it a little." And then a little more, and then a little more, trying to make something pretty that would SELL, until what they had in front of them looked nothing like the original. It's their own body-complexes and unrealistic expectations, coupled with a complete lack of understanding of either anatomy or fine art, all coming together in a big ugly plastic freak show.

And I totally agree about getting the masterpieces right. The whole point of the product is to praise the original.

Edited at 2009-01-24 03:07 pm (UTC)
Jan. 24th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
Doesn't look right. If I didn't know what they're doing I'd have to assume these were made by people who had never actually seen women. Or possibly aliens who have never seen humans.
Jan. 25th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
Ha! "I've heard they have heads like THIS!" And they stand on little flippers they call FEET!"
Jan. 30th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
You've been linked in Shapely Prose, btw. Yay!

(I also added you to my flist, hope you don't mind.)

Edited at 2009-01-30 11:46 pm (UTC)
Jan. 31st, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
Hey, beautiful scarf makin' lady! Nice to see you here.
(no subject) - florence_craye - Feb. 1st, 2009 12:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 31st, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Awesome (and infuriating) post. Here via the SP link--hope you don't mind I linked you in my LJ!

Edited at 2009-01-31 04:22 am (UTC)
Jan. 31st, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
Here via poisoninjest *points up*

What company is this? I want to send them scathing letters. And possibly give my students extra credit for sending them scathing letters.

Edited at 2009-01-31 12:40 am (UTC)
Jan. 31st, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
This should be unbelievable. Yet it's all too easy too believe.

It's revolting, what they've done to those figures.

Jan. 31st, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)
I think it's kind of appropriate how the repro Venus looks so grumpy and miserable.
Jan. 31st, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
This is unacceptable. And just down right wrong.
On a side note...those hips(the new ones) clearly are not made for birthing.
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Daphne P. Winnabago

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