Tuesday, 20 March 2007

REPOST: 'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin


'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin, also known as 'She who was once the Helmet-Makers Beautiful Wife,' or 'The Old Courtesan.'

You might see this work by Rodin and ask, "Why the ugliness? Who would want to look at that old crone?" Let me quote the words of two masters.
An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body.

--R. Heinlein via Jubal Harshaw, on 'La Belle Heaulmiere' by Rodin,
Or you might consider the sentiments of Shakespeare, from his Sonnet 73, in which he spoke of:
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
So, d'you think Rodin has pulled it off the task described by Harshaw? Or do you have the sensitivity of an armadillo? (Or are you just not letting on.)

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

12 comments:

  1. "So, d'you think Rodin has pulled it off the task described by Harshaw? Or do you have the soul of an armadillo."

    Now there's a loaded question! And an unfair one - especially for those of us with a poor ability to percieve, based on a 2-D photograph, what a 3-D object actually looks like...

    Especially considering that photographs don't allow you to gaze upon the object from different angles and see it different lights...

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  2. I see the young woman in this statue. Don't even have to have a 3d view to see her. In helping to care for my grandmother, I saw the living, breathing version of this woman.

    In the last few years of my Gran's life, she became increasingly trapped in a failing shell. The vivacious hostess, dancer and sportswoman was still there. She primped, and dressed up for cocktails and dinner each evening, even when she was no longer allowed to drink the martini she held so elegantly. She never saw herself as an old woman. Her self image was of the height of her confidence in her beauty, probably mid-30s.

    I love that statue, and Heinlein's description.

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  3. Awful though our mortal decline, the modern surgical embalming, tucking, suctioning, lifting and lip pumping is just plain ghastly. The statue is sad but has dignity. The modern defiance is just plain sorry.

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  4. Shakespeare's sonnet 'bare ruined choirs' was actually about the then-recent dissolution of the monasteries: the roofs were literally taken away (bare ruined choirs) leaving them unable to be used ('where once sweet birds sang' is the choristers themselves.)

    Just a bit of history...it's application to the Rodin is a little, shall we say, oblique, in this context.

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  5. I'm so pleased about the comments on this one. Thanks Joy and George.

    Seagullz, you're right about the Shakespearian context, but for me it still seems to fit so beautifully. :-)

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  6. The modern defiance is just plain sorry.

    What's wrong with defiance? Had a thoughtful exercise, nutrition and hydration plan been followed a little earlier I'm sure the subject of this work of art would look a bit perkier.

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  7. Heinlein can make you look at something you'd previously never considered, in a completely new way. The scene which that quote comes from is an all-time favourite.

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  8. I have always enjoyed watching my lovers face. To make love in the dark is lacking. The term bedroom eyes, has another meaning. Take your "bedroom eyes" everywhere.

    Heinlein's statement is well said.

    Wonderful post.

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  9. Perhaps your simplistic interpretation lacks the depth of taking in a work of art and finding a way that it is personal to you. That could be described as, shall we say, myopic? obtuse? You decide which definition fits.

    Re: Seagullz said...

    Shakespeare's sonnet 'bare ruined choirs' was actually about the then-recent dissolution of the monasteries: the roofs were literally taken away (bare ruined choirs) leaving them unable to be used ('where once sweet birds sang' is the choristers themselves.)

    Just a bit of history...it's application to the Rodin is a little, shall we say, oblique, in this context.

    Perhaps your simplistic interpretation lacks the depth of taking in a work of art and finding a way that it is personal to you. That could be described as, shall we say, myopic? obtuse? You decide which definition fits.

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  10. She has a face, Valentine Michael Smith saw it,; her beauty remains.

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  11. I first heard of this statue in a song by Stan Rogers called "Lies". I think the statue inspired the song, which is about the endurance of love despite the physical ravages of time. I saw the statue last week in the MMA in New York, and instantly knew that Rogers had to be inspired by the statute, for the reasons stated in this article. The song is available on youtube, if you want to take a listen.

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  12. Stan Rogers' "Lies" gave me chills the first six times I heard it. Powerful, most powerful. "drips Carnation from the can" is one of my favorite phrases as I remember my mother doing the same thing and fighting the same ravages brought about to her beautiful face and body by time. I try to remember this song frequently when I'm with my wife of 45 years, with whom we have three children, all now charming adults. The song is absolutely dead on and Rogers' voice is one of the most powerful and beautiful I've ever heard. The musical arrangement is perfect. Superb. Take the time to listen if you haven't heard it. You won't be disappointed.

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