I had recognized Him not

Noli Me Tangere-Titian c 1514

The ceaseless tears
Rained down my cheeks,
My breathes ragged gulps
In between a wail and a sob,
A heart riven twice again
My stricken rent soul
Searching in this isolated place:
I ask the angels,
Where is the body of My Lord?
Where has my Beloved gone?
But only silence
I turn around
To see a man, a stranger
Possibly the groundskeeper
A tiller of soil, a planter of seeds
He asks me gently
As to the reason for my distress
I answer that I need to find him,
My brother, my father,
My companion, my son,
The one who gave me succour
In the darkness,
Cast out the seven demons
With ease and gentleness,
If you know where he has been taken
Tell me so that I may tend to his body;
To which he simply said Mary:
I had recognized Him not.
How could I have not known
It was Rabboni
Heavenly consort
Transformed with inner light,
I rushed over
But he stilled me, saying,
Do not touch me
Mary, my tower of strength,
My sister, my child,
My bride, my mother,
Divine Sophia
For although I have descended
To harrow Hell
I have yet to ascend
To the One,
Beyond this realm of matter,
To the father and mother of us all
Not the mother who bears
Not the father who raises
Not the creator of this world
But the Source of the Word
Go now, my Beloved,
You who always understood me the best,
Be the apostle to the apostles
And tell them where I am going.

Dreams of Desire 61 (Rokeby Venus)

Venus at her Mirror (Rokeby Venus)-Diego Velázquez-1647-1651

One of the most famous portrayals of the female nude in Western Art, Diego Velázquez’s Venus at her Mirror, more commonly known as the Rokeby Venus, (so-called because it hung in the 19th Century at Rokeby Park, Yorkshire before becoming part of the National Gallery in London permanent collection), is a landmark of erotic art.

As Titian and Rubens were both connected to the Spanish court, it is likely that Velázquez would have been familiar with both Titian’s Venus of Urbino, and Rubens Venus in Front of the Mirror, which are cited as possible sources for the Rokeby Venus, however Velázquez was working in the severely censorious and repressive atmosphere of the Spanish Golden Age, where the Spanish Inquisition monitored art for immorality. Several Spanish Cardinals had called for the destruction of any artwork featuring nudity, but some Spanish courtiers and nobility held private collections of such work. Velázquez position as court painter to King Philip IV enabled him to become the first Spaniard to feature female nudity; it would be 150 years before another Spanish artist, Goya, would again take the risk, in his incomparable La Maja Desnuda.

As in Titian’s painting, Venus is shorn of her traditional mythological trappings, the only indicator that this is a mythological painting is the winged presence of her son, Cupid, who holds the mirror for her rapt self-appraisal. In a departure from previous representations of the Goddess, Venus is a brunette and is noticeably more slender than the fully figured versions of Titian and Rubens (especially Rubens). One of the most controversial features of the painting is the blurred face in the mirror in contrast to the precisely delineated derriere that is the focal point of the composition.

Outside of Spain, Velázquez wasn’t well known until the mid 19th Century, when he was discovered however he would have an important influence upon Modern Art. Manet, Picasso and Bacon are among those who have acknowledged their indebtedness.

The King of Kink, Helmut Newton (see Dreams of Desire 55 (Helmut Newton) knowingly references and updates the Rokeby Venus in one of his coolly fetishistic photographs from the late 70’s/early 80’s.

Helmut Newton
Helmut Newton-Rokeby Venus


Dreams of Desire 60 (Venus of Urbino)

Venus of Urbino
Venus of Urbino-Titian circa 1532-1534

I have concentrated in the Dreams of Desire series on erotic images produced by the various avant-garde movements that followed the great rupture with tradition that was Impressionism, especially the Symbolist, Expressionist and Surrealist movements. However eroticism had long been a staple of Western Art, notably in the Renaissance.

Although Titian’s painting bears the title Venus of Urbino, it is immediately evident that it represents a break from the numerous preceding pictorial versions of the Goddess of Love. This is a Venus that is shown in a domestic scene as opposed to the bucolic countryside, and she has been largely stripped of her standard allegorical and mythological accoutrements.  The viewer is presented with a sensual and erotic image of a earthly woman (probably a courtesan); nothing more, nothing less.

Also startling in a painting almost 500 years old is the frankness of the steady gaze of Venus, a  frankness that certainly invites comparisons with Manet’s Olympia, a painting  that caused such controversy and consternation upon being first exhibited in 1865.

Edouard Manet-Olympia 1863