Odalisques & Post Odalisques OdalisquesFriday, April 27, 2018
|Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)" (1917) - Amedeo Modigliani|
Sotheby's has announced that "Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)" (1917) by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, which depicts a naked French woman in repose, will lead its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on May 14 with an pre-sale estimate in excess of $150 million -- the highest estimate placed on an artwork at auction.
I have always been fond of Modigliani's nudes but I never thought that in trying to imitate one as I wrote here that I would find something interesting about the man.
But I will repeate myself here briefly. When taking photograph of a friend in a Modigliani pose I had the problem of making the face small, the neck long and the bum large.
In my attempt I saw the light. It is commonly believed that camera wideangle lenses distort. Perhaps they do in ways that we photographers call lens aberrations. In a wide angle lens (particularly a really wide one) anything circular in any of the four corners will appear egg-shaped.
But wide angle lenses will make anything closer to it look bigger. And this is correct and true. What the average person does not take into account is that our brain tells us, "The nose in that selfie is not that big. It looks big because the smart phone is not that smart." And so our brain corrects our perception and the nose looks almost normal.
I learned from my experience that Modiglini sat (or stood) very close to his subjects. And his vision was superbly accurate and so bums looked larger, necks look slimmer (an thus longer) and faces were smaller.
|A pinhole camera odalisque|
The other artist who had a similar vision was van Gogh. His painting of the chair in his room looks like a reproduction of a photograph taken by a 28mm lens really close!
In English there aren't too many euphisms for that portion of the body that is always so much larger in Modigliani nudes. In Spanish we have many demure ones. My favourite is one by my grandmother who used to say of it:
Donde la espalda pierde su nombre. Because espalda is a precise word for that part of our body below the neck and above the bum the meaning of "where the back[espalda] loses its name," has a special ring to it.
My grandmother also called it "la cara fea" or the ugly face. Of the orifice she would tell me, "el ojo que no ve." That translates to "the eye that cannot see."
In Mexico dishes to be washed are trastos or trastes. In Argentine we laugh at this as a traste (root to behind) is that ugly face. Curiously a capotraste (in English it is usually called a capo) is that device used in a guitar's fingerboard to lower or raise its tone.
In the 19th century Odalisques became popular. Originally this was a Turkish word for the maid to a sultan's wife or concubine. In some of those odalisques you could spot her in a corner while the woman she served lounged on a bed or sofa. Soon enough the maid was history and the odalisque became the nude woman reclining on the sofa.