Bouguereau Pietà at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

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Bouguereau Pietà at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Mike McConn wrote:
Without seeing live who knows for sure, although the navel may not be placed "too high" but PERHAPS not enough abdominal concavity for the attitude and gesture which naturally increases the appearence of a raised navel - see Michelangelo's Rome Pietà. I tend to believe that a master such as Bouguereau doesn't make such glaring "mistakes" ... it's fairly obvious that he had complete and total command of anatomy.

Indeed he did, but I think that there's an unexamined premise at work here, which is that the proper way to judge a painting is whether it is a perfect representation of what one would see if one were in front of the same scene in reality. That isn't a justifiable standard at all. What matters and what should be the proper criteria of judgment is the impact of the painting. So if the ribs were in the wrong place, the hands were too small, or whatever and that inhibited the point of the painting (say, by drawing undue attention to these "mistakes" or by adding an alien air to the scene when it should have seemed more familiar for example).

--Brian