Cindy Sherman in the guise of the Fornarina and Bacchus!

Jessica will be our guide on this article. Just a few musings…..

1. What is Cindy Sherman’s attitude toward art history as a “genre” (as it were)?
2. Do you believe this as gospel truth?
3. What are the subversive elements of Sherman’s reinterpretation of Raphael’s portrait of the courtesan/La Fornarina?
4. The gaze: discuss!
5. Arthur Danto regards this work as a complex transaction between the “original and her tableaux vivant comment on it.” Unpack this critique.
6. Why was Bacchus often a guise for artistic self-portraits?
7. Where else has Melancholia reared its head in this course?
8. Discuss the subversive qualities in Sherman’s appropriation of this portrait, if any exist. Do you agree with the author’s reasons for the literal character of this portrait?
9. Do you feel that copies of “masterpieces” have power over their prototypes?


4 responses

  1. Copies of masterpieces are always compared to the originals, so in that sense they have power…A successful copy would not merely imitate the masters, but the artist would insert herself in some way, subvert a norm, embed humor…

  2. 3. The way Sherman depicts the courtesan is subversive in several ways. Instead of “natural” breast draped by a sheer cloth, the breasts and nipples appear fake; not in the breast augmentation way, but in a plastic way. I don’t know exactly what they are made of, but those nipples definitely look fake. Also the woman is pregnant, which creates the swollen belly that is seen in the original painting, and was fashionable for the time. However, it was bad for a courtesan to become pregnant, as it would hinder their work, and the woman depicted is believed to be a courtesan. Also Sherman looks directly at the viewer in a confrontational way, while the subject in the original looks coyly to the side.

  3. Often artists turned to Bacchus for self-portraits to connote divine inspiration. Bacchus/ Dionysus was the Greco-Roman demigod of the vine, son of Zeus/Jupiter and mortal woman Semele, whose nature represented both the invigorating effects of wine and the intoxication of being drunk, revelry and madness. His partial humanity (bipolar nature, mood swings) probably made him more relatable for artists.
    I find it interesting that Sherman returns the gaze in both self-portraits. Does it carry the same weight/ significance for her to return our gaze as a courtesan woman (woman dressed as a eloquent, seductive woman who enjoys some independence, but not quite like Manet’s Olympia–perhaps not so brazen) versus Bacchus (a woman dressed as a man/demigod).

    Also, apparently Sherman is totally disengaged from art history? I don’t agree with Woods-Marsden on this point.THe author says “artists like Sherman have appropriated the art of the past to use it as a springboard to innovation,” yet claims Sherman knows very little about art history…THis claim she completely refutes at the end of the article by quoting Sherman: “I guess I am poking fun at [art history] and trying to say that art isn’t really that serious.”

    Is art really not “that serious” or is Sherman just trying to invoke humor?

  4. 9. Do you feel that copies of “masterpieces” have power over their prototypes?
    Personally, I do not think that copies of masterpieces have power over their prototypes because they are done by different artists. Thus they represent a different artistic style and ideology. The copy might represent the interpretation of its maker or not in both cases I do not think it affects the interpretation of the original. The copy might have carry on ideas and techniques from the original which might affect its reading but since the level of this carry on(?) is solely dependant on the artist I do not believe that it is accurate to fundamentally link the copy to the original.

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