“Male-gaze” & Statuary: e.g. 3

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A plaque label says: “Gerettet von Adolf Brütt.”  Gerettet translates from German to English as “Saved.”  However, this piece is known as “Der Fischer.”  Bronze, done sometime between 1887 and 1894.  

This is a second casting, placed in 1991 in Möltenort.  Brütt taught sculpting in Kiel before training at the Berlin Academy of Art.  Born in Hutum, he took many holidays in the Kiel region.  Apparently during one of these holidays to Möltenort – about halfway between Laboe and Kiel – he witnessed fisherman Klaus Löpthien rescue a young girl from drowning. 

From the linked page: “Der feste Stand des Fischers und die kraftlose Haltung des Frau ergeben einen eindrucksvollen Kontrast. Der Körper der Frau formt weich fließende Linien, während der männliche Körper stabil aufrecht steht.”

Roughly, something like: “The firm/fixed stance of the ‘Fisherman’ and the powerless/lifeless/helpless pose of the woman gives an impressive contrast.  The woman’s body is in soft flowing lines, while the male body stands firm/straight/upright.”

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Second is the “Bullayer Brautrock.”  It doesn’t translate directly as “bridal gown,” but more like “The Bridal Skirt of Bullay.”  Bullay is a village on the Moselle River (part of German wine country).  Records show that as early as the 12th Century Bullay existed as a free city with its own local customs and laws.  Even today, Bullay is part of a “collective municipality.”  The values of independence, self-discipline and entrepreneurial spirit are the bedrock of the story to which the statue pays homage.

According to local folk tradition, a Count Beisel lived in the area in the 16th Century.  Either he or his son (or both) lived lavish and large, squandering most of their money.  When the time came for him to propose a marriage of his son to the daughter of a well-heeled local knight, he rather awkwardly requested that the bride’s family pay for the ceremonies.  This was not the local custom at the time.

The bride’s cunning father drafted a contract to protect his daughter.  He agreed to the marriage and to covering all expenses, but he leveraged this against the security of the Count’s assets.  He required that any and all profits from the Count’s “Brautrock” vineyard become the sole possession of the bride to protect her in the event of the groom’s family continuing in their fiscally unsupportable habits.

To commemorate this tale and the prudent self-reliance it venerates, we have a statue of a naked girl presenting her “wedding skirt.”

Denmark-Svendborg-Mermaid-Fountain

Third and last, the “Havfrue Springvand” (Mermaid Fountain) in the center of Svendborg, Denmark.  By Neils Hansen Jacobsen (1861 – 1941).  This has been moved to various places around the town, and moving it to the current location – at eye level in the middle of the market square – made it a centerpiece for a protest.  While it seems that protest had to do with displeasure at the nature of “rennovation frenzy” in policy and practice, what struck me when walking past it just how highly sexualized it is.

Sometimes, these kinds of fundamental displays are so transparent and so frontal that they go unnoticed.  Art (read: values) surrounds us so frequently, so constantly, so immanently, that we are blind to it.  Inured to our own societas.  Even the “Other” can become interpolated in this orthogonal way.  In these three cases, it is revealing just how deeply unremarkable the male gaze [PDF] is within the mundane perception of the dominant cultural aesthetic.

Statues

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