Mooi, mooier, mooiste

I have recently bought on sales this album, “100 most beautiful women in the visual arts.” Usually I avoid the alboms of this sort, they tend to be crappy both in terms of content and printing industry (not to mention the fact that I lately try to avoid buying any paper books in general). But in this case the price was very tempting, plus the selection was relatively interesting (a significant part from the modern art, for example.

The picture above may look small, but the album itself is quite large, almost A3 in size, and the majority of the reproductions are of pretty decent quality. Out of the hundred paintings seven are with mirrors, not bad so a catch (and there may be more, I didn’t explore all the works carefully).

The collection, as often happens, is heavily European art biassed  (blue background on the picture below); there are several “American” works, and for the same of political correctness there are also one or two works from every other continent. A shame, of course, but it is a disease of the whole industry, what can you expect from a small publishing house?

Russians (red frame) took quite a slice, more than, for example, the Dutch ladies and Belgian together (blue frame).

I also found interesting a format of the presentation for each art works – for instance, the book contain very detailed information about where they are now, in which museum, and often even in which room in the museum. In addition, there is minimal information about the museum (website, the working hours  etc). I am not sure I will follow all these elements when talking about my own ‘mirror stories’, but a lesson or two can be learned, perhaps.

Sometimes there are also fragments of the art work (like in this case), but sometimes they include other works by the artist, and sometimes even the artist’s own images. In some cases the stories provide interesting details and interpretations of the pictures, but most often they are very superficial and full of clichés (I’ve read about twenty so far, and can tell the quality is very uneven.

For example, this woman by Bellini was attributed without much hesitations as Venus;  there are, as wel know, some heated debates about the issue.

What I am missing most is in fact the talks about the very ‘beauty’. Why is this woman was considered beautiful back then? Do we still believe she is beautiful now? And why (or why not)? May be more details about all these different dimensions of the beauty – for example, proportion of bodies, postures, gestures, dresses, hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry. There is very little of all that in the book.

Anyway, a nice help in my mirror exploration; below are the works with the mirrors from the book:

School of Fontainebleau – Diana at the Bath (c.1590)

School of Fontainebleau – Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters (c.1595)

Diego Velasquez – The Rokeby Venus (1650)

Jean-Antoine Watteau – The Judgement of Paris (1721)

James Whistler – Symphony in White No.2 (1862)

Max Ernst – Attirement of the Bride (1940)

The last one is, of course, problematic mirror-wise; but I will write more about that when talking about Max Ernst’s mirrors. One day soon, hopefully.


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