Thursday, 1 August 2013

‘Young Spartans Exercising,’ by Degas

File:Young Spartans National Gallery NG3860.jpg

Changed many times by Degas, and never completely finished before his death, his Spartans Exercising harks back to the delightful point in the Nude Goddesses post earlier today: that that Greeks valued bodily displays, especially as part of athletic display. 

Over the course of his many changes to the painting however, Degas himself seemed to try to undercut the value of his bodies, and the more direct point it might have been originally making for something more subtle. Christopher Riopelle, curator of 19th-century painting at the National Gallery, reckons the painting, "...starts as a traditional historical painting, closely based on classical accounts and meticulous research. It ends as something much more enigmatic."

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