July 17, 2016
Dr. Beth Cohen and Prof. Alan Shapiro (John Hopkins), both noted art historians, presented their recent research. Presentations included cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Admission was by private invitation.
Alan Shapiro spoke about a paper he presented during a conference at Columbia Univ. in April 2016: “Boys Behaving Badly in Boeotia (?): Komasts, Kantharoi, and a Puzzle in Paris.” (A kantharos (pl. kantharoi) is a shape of ancient Greek vase used as a drinking cup.). His bio is: <http://classics.jhu.edu/directory/h-alan-shapiro/
Beth Cohen discussed a paper she presented at an academic conference in Seattle this spring: Beth Cohen: “Female, Bound, Naked and White: Envisioning Andromeda in Western Art.” The (imperfect) conference description was:
Surveying depictions of the mythological Ethiopian Princess Andromeda by western artists from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century reveals their adherence to ideal classic female beauty. For these artists, unaware of ancient visual prototypes, the Latin poet Ovid’s description was influential (Met. 4, 665-740): while chained to rocks for sacrifice to the sea monster ravaging her homeland, Andromeda looks like a marble statue—so beautiful that the Greek hero Perseus, smitten upon first sight, rescues and marries her. Thus—even though she was a barbarian from Africa, where, in Classical antiquity, the strong sun was believed to have turned the swarthy indigenous people’s skin black (e.g., Hdt. 2.22)—in western art, Andromeda was generally shown fair-skinned and nude like a Greco-Roman Venus (or with scant or slipping drapery). Taking the lead from depictions of Andromeda, in pre-Freudian times, sadomasochistic images of bound, naked, white females proliferated. Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave (multiple marble replicas, 1844-1869, from 1843 clay model)—the most famous and most viewed Classicizing nineteenth-century American white marble statue—depicts a contemporary Greek, Christian woman, stripped naked and chained, on the Turkish slave market. While espoused by U.S. abolitionists, Powers’s white—rather than black—slave was also lampooned (Punch 20 : 236). And in Frederic Leighton’s 1891 painting Perseus and Andromeda (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), featuring a nightmarish black sea monster, the struggling, bound pale maiden—a red-haired Victorian English beauty—supported the artist’s theory that ideal Aryan racial purity extended from Classical Greece to British women (see Orr 1897). (For feminist approaches to relevant artworks that inspired this paper, see Munich 1989, Kasson 1990.) Interestingly, in Classical Greek art itself, the Ethiopian princess, though exotically dressed, was likewise conceived as white (Bérard 2000).