How wonderful to see a sculpture which so beautifully expresses my sexuality! It is at Tate Britain, their exhibition Sculpture Victorious whose last day is tomorrow (Monday). Here it is:
The description on the wall calls Hylas Hercules’ “beautiful boy companion”. Ha. He gazes into the eyes of his abductress in surrender, symbolised by his water-jug, lip downwards. I love her determined look. The other, abandoned, smells his hair. I note the position of their hands, restraining his arms, waist, neck and shoulder. I know his leaning slightly back like that is a wonderfully vulnerable position. I moved on to the rest of the exhibition, but went back to examine it: the depth of pressure of their hands, pressing into his arm or side, the curl of her hair flowing down her back, their postures; and drinking in that gaze. The commentary, “the obsession of grown women for a boy”, misses the point. I think of Simon’s meeting with Axel: I identify with the boy, and it is a gorgeous feeling. I have now (6 Sept) taken more photographs of the sculpture.
The exhibition starts with two busts of the Queen, young and pretty then venerable, and an explanation of how busts could be reproduced in miniature with a machine. Softer materials were better for this: at one time between 3,500 and 6000 elephants were slaughtered annually for the British ivory market. We move into a room of church sculpture, and my disgust increases. A model for the restoration of the tomb of Philippa of Hainault has huge kings and waist-height angels. Of course, there were no portraits of Baron Saher de Quency, part of the Magna Carta putsch seeking power for themselves, so the face and figure are from imagination. The commentary notes the complex detail of his chain mail, but I see his noble manly yet modest face in his helmet, eyes downcast: he’s an ideal Victorian!
In anger and disgust I turn to the Eglinton Trophy. The Queen of Beauty, Lady Seymour, giving out the victor’s crown, is an exact precursor of a Disney princess. Nearby is a heavy silver top to a bishop’s crook, the very contradiction of Christ. What a wonderful start to the exhibition, showing the Victorian Values I so despise, showing how alien they were!
The next room has the Naiades, and the Paul Comolera peacock. I can’t imagine it being made now, but I find it completely beautiful, its jutting chest, its strong talons, its Colours! It is taller than I. On to the Greek Slave, her wrist restraints so delicate and tasteful, contrasting with the chains. She inspired music, poetry and obsession. Then there is the Abolitionist John Bell’s The American Slave, a contrast to it.
Finally, William Reynolds Stephens, a Royal Game. I love her erect carriage, and her legs, and note the complexity of detail on her dress, and her jewelled necklace. There is also a Burne-Jones, with the man silver and the creatures gilt. The picture here does not do it justice: he shines.
Friday was a day of magic, liberation, new understanding, amazement and delight. More on this tomorrow.