It is very difficult to write about a relatively modern Italian-French artist when you are roaming the streets of Florence. It offers you stunning art and mind-blowing views wherever you go, whichever way you look.
This is why the last installment of Modigliani took me so long to write.
Previously, we learned why liking this nude is incompatible with the idea of women’s equality with men.
What do you think about the next nude? Remember, it is a bad photo of a glass-covered painting.
It has been universally acknowledged that men can’t really understand women. Mel Gibson made a career out of that.
What men can see, though, are differences between women, no one can’t take that away from them. This is why we’ll run this comparison:
She’s asleep (her eyes are closed, and the body is relaxed) but still conscious about the possibility of men looking. So, her hand is covering her most private parts that no men should see even when she is not aware a man might be looking.
She pretends to be asleep (her eyes are closed) but she turned her body to the observer, in a way that is not relaxed. She exposes herself to the man she knows is looking at her, with the obvious purpose of seduction. To emphasise this, Modigliani did a careful job of sculpting the different shapes that make up her body. The viewer can’t avoid groping it with his eyes (I was showing it previously).
She is very much awake, and she looks sternly at the male observer. Her hand is not shyly covering her prized possessions, it locks those possessions from view until she’s satisfied enough to present them. Flowers, brought over by her maid does not seem to be able to do the trick. Perhaps, diamonds? She may be the 19th century equivalent of a call-girl, but she knows her price, and she won’t be haggling over it.
PS Can you imagine the scandal of exhibiting a prostitute in Paris 150 years ago? I’d love to time-machine back there to see visitors’ bourgeois faces getting pinkish.
She’s awake, but she’s not sitting on the sofa looking at the male observer with evaluative inquiry. She opened her eyes, her body is twisted over just like in the previous nude by Modigliani (no.2), so she offers herself to the man looking at her, but she’s doing it in a very open, straightforward manner. She says, I want you. You want me. Let’s skip the flower stage and get down to sex, thank you very much.
This nude is painted equal to the man looking at her.
If you haven’t read the post on Modigliani manner of painting, it might be the right time to step back and do it before going any further.
Unlike the nude No.2, this nude is all about lines, not volumes.
Her lines are broken only by nipples that stand out like sexual markers. The eye, when sliding down her body can’t but stop at the nipples. The eye of the viewer interprets them as erect and, hence, the girl is ready for sex.
Modigliani would paint the pupil in the eye only when necessary. Here, one eye is with its pupil painted, and the other is black. And there’s a smile playing across the lips.
She knows the man looking at her won’t be able to resist the temptation. The eye means she is ACTIVELY looking at you, my dear gentleman, just evaluating when exactly you’d realise what’s going on. Because men can be so slow sometimes when it comes to obvious conclusions and resolute actions.
She’s not seducing men with her body. She’s doing that with her personality (the second function of the pupil painted in the eye). Sex for her is not a means to an end, and not a sacrifice: she OK about using her body to get pleasure. For herself.
This is why, if you are a feminist at heart you are not betraying your faith when you like this painting.
And, as I was saying before, I am joking.
I realise there’s some joke in any joke, of course.
Oh, one last thing. When I was talking about the body twist, I meant the lower part being awkwardly turned toward to viewer, which I tried to show with arrows. I also circled the hands to highlight their differences: