Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The nude man in art exhibitions (1) : 'Masculin Masculin' with 'Mercury inventing the caduceus'

We thought it would be interesting to show a few sculptures from exhibitions focussing on the male nude in art. Todays' sculpture was displayed during the 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition held recently in Paris (Sep 2013 - Feb 2014) at the Orsay Museum. Approximately 20 male nude sculptures were selected by the curator/director Guy Cogeval and his team (together with 180 other art pièces mainly paintings and photographs). The period ranged from 1800 until today.

Among them, for today, I selected 'Mercury Inventing the Caduceus' done by Jean-Antoine-Marie Idrac in 1878.  This French sculptor is born in Toulouse in 1849 and died early, in 1884 of typhus. He studied under Alexandre Falguière and also Pierre-Jules Cavelier. He won the famous Prix de Rome in 1873. He also exhibited at the Salon from 1877, and got a first class medal two years later for our selected marble sculpture.

This large marble piece was sculpted in Rome, Italy, in 1878. Several years later, in 1886, a copy in bronze was casted, which was displayed at the Exposition Universelle (World Fair) of 1900 in Paris(and today in Toulouse, at the Musée des Augustins).


One of the other curators of the 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition, Xavier Rey, stated that male nude anatomy and study was extremely important for every artist training. With some humour trait, Guy Cogeval added that this sculpture shows probably the cutest buttocks of the museum!
Indeed, several of this exhibition's sculptures and paintings contain a clear homoerotic aspect. And part of the exhibition is specially focussed on the male as an object of desire.
Why ' inventing the Caduceus ' ? The mythology has many stories about this! One reports that Mercury wanted to find a symbol for his role as the god of healing and messenger of the gods. He received a gold stick from Apollon. Later on, seeing two snakes fighting, he throw his gold stick towards them, the snakes curled around the stick and stopped fighting.
The serpent-coiled staff, or caduceus, is sometimes illustrated with wings at the top end to match Mercury’s winged helmet.


Some sources, videos and links:

Video about 'Masculin Masculin' exhibition (in French with English subtitles)
Other video about this exhibition showing some master pièces.
Orsay Museum website
Article in French in the 'Tribune de l'Art' website