Sunday, November 13, 2016

"A Brief History of Hairless Vaginas in Art"

I happened upon this great article on How To Talk About Art History: "A Brief History of Hairless Vaginas in Art". Click this link and read the full story, but meanwhile here are a few interesting excerpts:
Vaginas and vulvas (with vulva referring specifically to the external genital region) in art have a quite different history than penises do, ranging from being symbols of fertility and life to being symbols of shame and impurity. Hairless vulvas have been around in art for a long time. How long? At least 2,000 – 3,000 years, and maybe even since the beginning of art as we know it. 
Since most of the early artworks that still survive are in sculptural form, this could account for why many ancient depictions of vulvas are sans pubes: it’s very hard to render tiny hairs in a sculpture without more modern tools. Many ancient statues depicting penises follow the same pattern of hairlessness. 
Keep in mind that there are definitely depictions of vulvas with pubic hair from these time periods. They just don’t seem to be quite as common. In some Ancient Egyptian placques and paintings, especially from the Ramesside period (1,292 – 1,069 B.C.E.), pubic hair on female genitalia is shown through painted triangles. A famous possible example of this black painted triangle style is in the Turin Papyrus from the Ramesside period, the earliest known depiction of sex in art.
It’s obviously fairly impossible for me to go through every depiction of a vagina in ancient art, let alone in every cultural artistic tradition. It’s fair to say, however, that hairless vulvas have been part of the nude figure since the beginning of art history, and that this is the case in many different cultures across the world. ...[So]... Let’s shift our attention to a form of art that inspired pretty much all Western art that came after it, including depictions of vaginas: Ancient Greek sculptures.
Venus Braschi, 4th century B.C.E., Praxiteles, variety of Aphrodite of Cnidos. Marble. Munich Glyptotech.
Many Ancient Greek sculptures depicted nude figures, and if these figures had vaginas, they were almost always completely hairless. These sculptures have been hugely influential as portraying a sort of “ideal” body. It should be noted that Ancient Greek sculptures were originally painted with bright colours that have since faded. It’s possible that they originally appeared with a full painted bush.

During the Renaissance, artists began looking back at the Classical era of Greek sculpture and were heavily inspired by it. Renaissance sculptures follow the same pattern as those of Ancient Greece: bodies with vaginas were always hairless, while those with penises were either hairless or had pubic hair carved into them.
Eve with a stag, c. 1540, Heinrich Aldegrever. Engraving.
Around this time surviving paintings become much more frequent, and even here vulvas were mostly hairless, although there were of course exceptions. German artist Heinrich Aldegrever’s print Eve with a stag (c.1540), for example, shows her with pubic hair. More often than not, though, nude paintings from this period were hairless. This goes for both penises and vaginas, although penises were much more likely to have pubic hair. Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve (1507), for example, is comprised of two paintings of both Adam and Eve nude, and although their genitals are covered by leaves, Eve is clearly hairless while Adam has a hint of pubic hair.
Adam and Eve, 1507, Albrecht Dürer. Oil on panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

That is the end of the excerpt but there is much much more to be found in the full article (link). Why am I not surprised that a story about "Hairless Vaginas in Art" would be longer than “Why do all old statues have such small penises?” Ha!

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