Sunday, 8 March 2015

Defining Beauty, British Museum


The new exhibition at the British Museum considers the depiction of beauty in Ancient Greek art.

I marvel at the sophistication of the works that are to be on show and I’m so glad I re-joined as a member. I’m very much looking forward to visiting.

As a teaser, the museum, via their social media platforms, has been sharing various photos of artefacts and artworks to be displayed as part of this exhibition. Today, as part of a focus on International Women’s Day, a beautiful bronze figurine of a Spartan woman running was shared.

Ironically the birthplace of democracy, Athens, kept their women like property, locked up, covered up and having no function in society other than marriage and child bearing. Unlike their Athenian sisters, Spartan girls did sports, had a good education, owned land and performed important civic duties as Spartan men were almost to the man, full time soldiers. Other Greek city states, or rather the men in those states, who provided the contemporary anecdotal soundbites we draw upon, looked down upon the Spartan women, snootily calling them "thigh showers" for their unashamed prowess in athletic pursuits. There was even an athletics meeting for women, in honour of the goddess Hera (Goddess of Women), which took place every four years at Olympia, although this was separate from the Olympic games.

So, here's the lovely figurine of a beautiful Spartan runner showing her athletic thighs, lifting her skirt to maximise her ability to accelerate. It dates from around 500BC, there is a dynamism in this work of art, it really is lovely, she’s so elegant. And where was she running to? I’d guess she was going to kick an Athenian in the balls.

Defining Beauty, From March 26th, British Museum.

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