The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is so phenomenal to me. I spent 4-1/2 hours there on Tuesday and could have spent another 5 there without getting bored. The atmosphere is exactly what I needed; seeing the whole spectrum of history through another’s eyes and mind is both a reality check and draws me closer to what has been.
The last few times I’ve been there, I was always drawn to this one particular sculpture. This time, I had the chance to sit in front of it, whip out my sketchbook, and embrace it myself. It’s fascinating the details you begin to absorb the more time you spend staring at something. Life to a depth and extent that you didn’t understand before emerges and consumes you. And so I present, “Kiss of Victory,” a sculpture done by Sir Alfred Gilbert between 1878-1881.
My first impression of this in visits passed was that there was some passionate relationship between the winged being holding the naked man in front. This time, one startling realization I developed as I sketched it was that, obviously, of the warrior role of the naked man. The shield in his hand gave that away. Then, though, I noticed that the winged creature (hereon out referred to as an angel) wasn’t kissing him as we traditionally use the term. Her lips barely touch his forehead no matter what angle you’re looking at this from. I clearly focused most on the development of the warrior’s body, at which point I came to realize that — well, he’s just not finished yet! Look at the way his fingers still clench the shield to his hand, and his feet are poised and his leg is extended to take another step. That scrap on his shoulder and the tassly thing by his arm seemed to be some sort of warrior shawl. It’s falling off, but on the other hand, it’s still hanging on. Even if he began to faint into the angel’s arms and lost his sword, he began to faint in the throes of sheer determination. Even if he fell, he fell with honor! (/cheese)
I think the angel’s face is sublime and I’m so glad that I feel like I captured the tension in the warrior’s body.
Sir Gilbert was encouraged by his tutor to sculpt this in marble in the manner of Classicists. It’s possible he did it in homage to his brother, who fell in battle. When I read that, as well as discovering the name of the piece is “Kiss of Victory,” I decided that maybe he has fallen in battle – but, again, he is a warrior fighting for his beliefs until the last moments when he falls into the arms of an angel of comfort and triumph.
Yesterday while at school and dwelling on the “Kiss of Victory” I doodled this.
What I liked about “Kiss of Victory” and also sketching the Doryphoros (there was no way I could have walked through the MIA with my sketchbook without taking a minute with him) is the way their bodies contradict today’s “ideal” male. The power isn’t just in how chiseled their eight-packs are or how cocky their grins can be. The Doryphoros is contemplative. He seems like he’d been the kind of guy, I think, that you’d want to sit down with over coffee to discuss philosophy. He’s toned, but not ridiculous. His muscles are subtle, his body, it seems, treated more like a treasure than a tool. This was the Greek ideal, the canon of proportions developed by Praxiteles. What happened to it? Why is it now obsolete? I used that theory on anatomy for my little angel dude, and I like the gentle strength that resulted.
And then, to leap wholly to the polar opposite end of the maturity spectrum, I did this.