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Classical artworks

Washboard Venus

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Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano gives us Botticelli without the bum.

Has anyone gazed at a classical Venus and gone, 'Wow, she's fat. Botticelli should have put her on a diet' ? Botticelli didn't but Anna Utopia Giordano has. The Italian artist has given nine classic art works a modern-day makeover. That means curvy Venus - the goddess of love and the muse for many a Renaissance artist - now has washboard abs, a tiny waist, slim thighs and booty that can disappear into skinny jeans.

Giordano told TOI-Crest over email that her Venus project was a way to stimulate debate on 21st-century ideas of beauty. As a freelance fashion model, she says her knowledge of the dynamics of the fashion industry helped her conceive the project. "I wanted to highlight the subjectivity of beauty ideals and the change of aesthetic canon through the centuries and this leads, quite spontaneously, to talking about issues like anorexia and bulimia and the large use of photo-editing software in advertising, " she says.

The model reworked nine Venuses, including the famous Birth of Venus, 1486, by Sandro Botticelli and Velazquez's 1648 Venus and Cupid. Each depiction of Venus is seen first in her original form and then as Giordano's modern-day remake, with noticeable weight loss.

The 1830 version of Venus Playing with Two Doves by Francesco Hayez shows a comely woman who may have - at that time - been quite content with her bulky bottom. But after Giordano's digital scalpel is done with her, she won't need to ask her husband if her bum was looking too big. The well-fed Venere di Urbino painted by Tiziano Vecellio in 1538, has also got a figure that women now long for.

One of the picks of the collection is her take on Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus. In the work, Cupid holds up a mirror in front of her and it's almost as if she's admiring her new reflection.

Giordano's collection, currently on show in the Netherlands, also raises questions on the increasing use of photoshop in the fashion industry, creating impossibly high beauty standards for the average woman. The airbrushing of classical artworks has got the Milanese artist a fair bit of flak but she has her defence ready. "One of the goals of Venus is certainly the 'demystification' of untouchability: today you can distort a work of art. And by the way, the concept of 'untouchable genius' crashed when Duchamp gave a universally know beauty a moustache. "


Venus is part of the show titled 'Why goddesses are so beautiful' at the Museum Het Valkhof (www. museumhetvalkhof. nl/)

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