Michelangelo’s David, 1501-4.

 

THE ABOVE IMAGE NEEDS TO BE LIGHTENED UP. ALSO ADD BELOW IN THIS BOX “DUCHAMP NUDE”

Michelangelo was one of the first artists to perform dissections in order to get the bones and muscles in his works of art biologically correct. Did he succeed? Anatomically, the eye sockets, nose, cheek bones, jawline, pectorals, abdominals, knee caps, etc. are biologically correct. But what about the proportion? The head is large in comparison to the shoulders. The torso is short, making the arms and legs look long. Hands and feet are large. Upon completing this work, Michelangelo was asked why the hands and feet were too large. His response was that David in the Biblical narrative was 12 years-old, and that is the age when a boy goes through puberty and the hands and feet grow faster than the rest of the body. (Was that actually his original intention, or was he covering up for a defect in the final image?) While the sculptor obviously understood individual body parts, he was weak in putting those parts together into a coherent unified body. Naked or Nude? It can go either way depending on the viewer’s perception of teenage anatomy and the various inconsistencies in proportion.
 

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase #2, 1912, is much more difficult to read. The body has been so abstracted into two-dimensional shapes (triangles, wedges, and rectangles) that the body is hard to distinguish. The artist’s intention was to show a cinematic descent of a body down a staircase, and so the figure and its limbs are repeated, overlapped, as if multiple frames of a movie had been superimposed. This stylization of the body according to the rules of geometry constitutes the “nude.” It is a cerebral rather than perceptual representation of a body in motion.