Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Raphael's "Fornarina" - Indianapolis Museum of Art - June 8, 2005 - 4 stars


A partially nude woman lifts a sheer veil and with the same hand holds her breast similarly to Venus Pudico, a modest Venus. Her eyes glance to the side while her other hand falls between her legs. Tame by today's standards, it was tres cheeky 500 years ago with symbols of marriage, sexuality or virtue underpinning what was to make Raphael and his Fornarina's relationship (his lover with whom he had too much sex with, thereby dying young, some would like to believe) a thing of intrigue, sensation and Romantic myth. In the exhibit, we learn that Giorgio Vasari gives evidence of this in "Lives of the Artists" stating, "Raphael was a very amorous man ..." and that he couldn't work without his mistress. Her white, soft flesh almost glows against the tight backdrop of dark myrtle and quince (more Venus allusions) that flank her. The viewer has no choice but to connect with her brown, almond shaped eyes that Raphael refers to in a 1509 poem as "two lights." This small exhibition dissects the theories, inspired tales and facts of Raphael's relationship with Fornarina. It's an alluring art history exploration for even the non-art history geek. The exhibit offers Indianapolis audiences an opportunity to not only see an iconic work of art, but to experience it in the context of the art it later inspired. Through June 26, 2005; 317-923-1331. -Mary Lee Pappas