Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday photo

George Gordon Meade Memorial. Washington, D.C., March 2007

Friday photo, public softcore edition. George Meade, of course, was a Union general of the Civil War who took command of the Army of the Potomac and, in his first battle, decisively defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, crippling the Confederate army and and earning a statue of a naked woman ministering to him. If he was awarded the real thing, it has gone discretely unrecorded

According to the description on Wikipedia, that's Chivalry to Meade's left, accepting the offer of a coat she obviously needs a hell of a lot more than he does. The dude copping a feel from behind her is Progress; it's not clear whether he's progressing upwards or downwards.

It might only be my inner sixth-grader that gets so amused by this statue, but it also amuses me to see how dramatically cultural tastes and norms change from generation to generation. The 1860's were a pretty religious and typically prudish age, but even the genteel classes saw no embarrassment in adding a naked figure to a statue of a hero and putting it up in the nation's capital, for all to see. I'm guessing this is because they still admired the art and literature of Classical Greece and Rome, whose statuary features plenty of nude figures. I'm not an art historian, but I would hazard a guess that any nude in a 19th Century statue almost certainly represented one of the ancient gods or was the personification of some abstract virtue. Nudity in the 19th Century was not about sensuality; it demonstrated your good taste and your classical education.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI, this statue was dedicated in 1927. October 19th to be 100% accurate.