Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian

The image of the feminine between the 16th and 17th Centuries

Beauty standards are volatile, they change according to time and place, even though women have an incredible capacity to always feel that they are inadequate in this regard. The history of art should instead help us to remember that what is deemed beautiful has always changed over the centuries, offering us a variety that is full of richness and acceptance.

Physical female forms have, in fact, inspired generations of artists, that each time have represented their own ideal, in conformity with what that period of time made plausible. “Linea d’ombra”, one of the most important exhibition organisers in Italy, therefore decided to create a small jewel, a cameo exhibition precisely to reflect upon the female image and how it has inspired artists over the centuries. As a result, alongside the exhibition-event Stories of impressionism. The Great Protagonists from Monet to Renoir, from Van Gogh to Gauguin to be shown in Treviso at Museo di Santa Caterina from October 29, 2016 until April 17, 2017, an exhibition dossier has been created with just three works that recognise the archetype of femininity, which crosses three centuries from 1500 to the rise of Impressionism. The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh has loaned Venus Rising from the Sea, Rubens’ The Feast of Herod and Rembrandt’s A Woman in Bed. Three women with full-bodied physiques, three historic seductresses (Venus, Salomè and probably Danae) who are not concerned with the spectator’s gaze or their bodies, and who use their sensuality without regrets or false modesty.

― Venus, Salomè, Danae: three historic seductresses

Their figures, reworked based on the sensitivities of the individual painters over the three centuries that separate them from Impressionism, can be seen in the fields of Provence, at the tables of Parisian bistros, and behind the closed doors of the middle classes, and they teach us that real beauty is truly a state of being, more than something that is found in the eyes of the beholder.

All images, courtesy of Linea d’ombra (Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery)

Valentina Monti