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Old January 8th, 2017, 12:01 PM   #11

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I agree with Cephus. It was the fashion in the "Northern School" to depict women not so much as pregnant but as fertile. In this sense fertile equals desirable. Rubens is rather well known for painting (well...to put it politely) fleshly women. In past centuries a corpulent gentleman symbolized wealth. These days thin and trim is in and a corpulent person represents a fast food devotee.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 12:10 PM   #12

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Originally Posted by Jax View Post
I think that it's likely that the women that Rubens painted were padded enough with fat around the stomach and thighs that they looked like they had a 'baby bump'.

Rubens 1577-1640 was painting during the latter half of the Protestant Reformation 1517-1648 so who knows.
I think you're right. I know it's not exactly the same as in the rest of Europe, but here the period of the counter reformation is tightly linked with baroque and we all know chubby was the sexy of that period.

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I agree with Cephus. It was the fashion in the "Northern School" to depict women not so much as pregnant but as fertile. In this sense fertile equals desirable. Rubens is rather well known for painting (well...to put it politely) fleshly women. In past centuries a corpulent gentleman symbolized wealth. These days thin and trim is in and a corpulent person represents an fast food devotee.
I don't want to slit hairs, but even today it depends on the culture. In most of the West it is like you said, but in places like Morocco a women is worth the more camels the more place she takes up on a carpet. They still force feed their daughters for them to marry well.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 12:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Pedro View Post
I agree with Cephus. It was the fashion in the "Northern School" to depict women not so much as pregnant but as fertile. In this sense fertile equals desirable. Rubens is rather well known for painting (well...to put it politely) fleshly women. In past centuries a corpulent gentleman symbolized wealth. These days thin and trim is in and a corpulent person represents an fast food devotee.
Case and point.

Venus at the Mirror

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 01:19 PM   #14

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I don't want to slit hairs, but even today it depends on the culture. In most of the West it is like you said, but in places like Morocco a women is worth the more camels the more place she takes up on a carpet. They still force feed their daughters for them to marry well.
Point well taken.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 02:36 PM   #15

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I agree with Cephus. It was the fashion in the "Northern School" to depict women not so much as pregnant but as fertile. In this sense fertile equals desirable. Rubens is rather well known for painting (well...to put it politely) fleshly women. In past centuries a corpulent gentleman symbolized wealth. These days thin and trim is in and a corpulent person represents an fast food devotee.
Agreed, but corpulent is not the same as looking pregnant.

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But the Virgin Mary isn't naked, so I guess it could just be a matter of padding.

Were there any comments made about Ruben's portrayal of the Holy Family in the OP painting?
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Old January 8th, 2017, 02:43 PM   #16

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Agreed, but corpulent is not the same as looking pregnant.
I hate to admit I have made the mistake of equating them.
By asking, "when are you due?" So it goes.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 03:18 PM   #17
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I hate to admit I have made the mistake of equating them.
By asking, "when are you due?" So it goes.
So have I.

OOPS.
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Old January 8th, 2017, 05:58 PM   #18
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It is interesting to note that in the 1696 Dissius auction in which 21 paintings by Vermeer were sold, the Woman Holding Balance was described as "A young lady weighing gold, in a box, by J. van der Meer of Delft, extraordinarily artful and vigorously painted." Since pregnancy was not portrayed in Dutch painting of the 17th century, it is odd that the catalogue's author would not have noted such an exceptional fact. Afterwards, no mention of the woman's pregnancy in relation to Vermeer's paintings can be found until 1971, despite the fact that the work can be traced in an almost unbroken line to this century.
This is some further information from Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. on Vermeer's Woman Holding Balance.

Vermeer's Women

It does seem odd that there is no mention of her pregnancy in the Dissius catalogue and no mention of it "until 1971." One would think, regarding the catalogue, that the subject of a painted pregnant woman would be the first item noted somehow, that is, given the mores at this time in the Netherlands, during the 17th century.

Also, switching gears here, in the Ruben painting from the OP, can we attach any meaning to the fact that Mary is walking? IOW, if she was in the "delicate" condition of pregnancy, shouldn't she be riding the donkey? In Ruben's picture, Mary seems to be having a nice stroll hand in hand with Jesus.

However, what is going on with Joseph in Rubens painting? Is he gesturing toward the animal, as if pleading somehow for Mary to stop walking? What does Ruben have Joseph looking at? Is Joseph's gaze fixated on Mary's tummy? It certainly looks to me like Joseph is gesturing, IMHO, under a slight bit of stress, for some reason. We certainly don't have a clear sky do we? Is that a building storm cloud we see? Also, there is something else that just pops out at me, and that is the bump in the road. Literally, a bump in the road DIRECTLY in front of Mary. Further, does it not seem to you, like Mary is fixated on the bump in the road? I would say that Joseph and Jesus are fixated on Mary, while Mary is fixated on the bump in the road. Why? What is Ruben's trying to convey here? Do these ominous signs have anything to do with the counter-reformation or, are they signs that Mary is aware of what will happen to Jesus? Are we dealing with political imagery or religious imagery here, or, perhaps, even both? Could any of these signs have anything to do with Mary being pregnant, if indeed, that is the case here? Does anybody have any ideas about what Rubens may be trying to say here?

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Old January 8th, 2017, 06:36 PM   #19
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However, what is going on with Joseph in Rubens painting? Is he gesturing toward the animal, as if pleading somehow for Mary to stop walking? What does Ruben have Joseph looking at? Is Joseph's gaze fixated on Mary's tummy? It certainly looks to me like Joseph is gesturing, IMHO, under a slight bit of stress, for some reason. We certainly don't have a clear sky do we? Is that a building storm cloud we see? Also, there is something else that just pops out at me, and that is the bump in the road. Literally, a bump in the road DIRECTLY in front of Mary. Further, does it not seem to you, like Mary is fixated on the bump in the road? I would say that Joseph and Jesus are fixated on Mary, while Mary is fixated on the bump in the road. Why? What is Ruben's trying to convey here? Do these ominous signs have anything to do with the counter-reformation or, are they signs that Mary is aware of what will happen to Jesus? Are we dealing with political imagery or religious imagery here, or, perhaps, even both? Could any of these signs have anything to do with Mary being pregnant, if indeed, that is the case here? Does anybody have any ideas about what Rubens may be trying to say here?

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Very nice!

Thought provoking.
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Old January 19th, 2017, 09:16 AM   #20
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Here is Rubens Dance of Italian Villagers, c. 1630

I think the woman on our right in the blue has the same issue the OP is focused on.

Also, notice the woman at the very back. The midriff bulge is very prevalent here. At first glance the fashion looks thinner than usual but it is misleading because of a white strip that is actually part of the dress. The midriff bulge here is very pronounced.

Click the image to open in full size.

This is Rubens The Capture of Juliers, 1622-1625

IMO, This painting is exceptionally interesting for our conversation.

Do we see the "mechanics" of one type of midriff bulge here ?

Could this be a standard convention in order for women to keep their garments from dragging on the ground or to keep women from tripping over their fabric ? Could this low "ribbon tie" be the cause of Mary's midriff bulge ?

Click the image to open in full size.

Finally, here is Rubens Christ on the Cross, 1619-1620

What do you see ? Can we assume that the woman in full view with her midriff showing is Mary, the mother of Christ ? If this is Mary, then, does she look pregnant here ?

Last edited by Cepheus; January 19th, 2017 at 09:58 AM.
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