Friday, June 27, 2008

Aphrodite Kallipygos

Thoughts of Stephanie Seymour and her beautiful bottom ( I read an article in a French magazine where the jovially racist French writer said that Stephanie had a bottom to outshine even African women) also brings to mind an incident described to me by HMS during a recent lunch. He had described observing the phenomenon where a girl wearing a short skirt can find that her shoulder bag causes the hem to gradually ride further and further up in a display made all the more tantalising by is assymetry.

This also brings to mind one of my favourite classical sculptures: The Aphrodite Kallipygos, or the Venus of the beautiful buttocks.

There is some nonsensical Greek story to explain the statue but it is far too tedious and unlikely to go into (something about sisters comparing their bottoms in the street and brothers falling in love with them etc etc.) The most famous version of the sculpture is a Roman copy of a Greek original (now lost). Originally on show in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome she found her way to the archaelogical museum in Naples where she was considered too racy for early nineteenth century eyes on account of her partial nudity. She was condemned to the infamous Secret Cabinet which was designed to house the more erotic finds from Pompeii. If you were a rich, educated male you might be allowed to view the contents of this room which even in the sixties had very restricted access. Indeed, it did not open properly to the public until 2000!

The partial nudity is the secret of her attraction, of course, as the Victorians (or whatever their Italian equivalents called themselves) realised. It is very much the effect generated by the World's most published photograph, Martin Elliott's Tennis Girl for Athena posters, of the eighteen year old Fiona Butler posing on a tennis court in Edgbaston in 1976.

The clothed top half and the naked bottom half speak more of illicit sexuality than the other way round as demonstrated by Karolina Kurkova in this picture.