Venetian Women At Their Toilet Analysis

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In the painting known as Venetian Women at their Toilet (c. 1545), the Italian artist Paris Bordon combines contrasting colours, detailed bodily and facial expressions, and an interesting organization of planes to depict just that: a troika of Italian women in various trappings sitting in a dimly-lit dressing room, at least two of whom, the Scottish National Gallery affirms, would ‘have been recognised immediately by contemporaries as courtesans’ (Figure 1). It could also be argued, however, that Bordon largely employs the afore-mentioned elements in his painting to bolster his construction of a subtle yet impressive criticism of (Venetian) society’s carnality and rampant sexual objectification of female bodies.
The notion that Bordon means to communicate a message about the sexual objectification of female bodies to the viewer at all is emphasized by Bordon’s emphasis on the bodies of his courtesans. If one were to examine the painting’s background, for example, one would find that it is, in fact, incredibly detailed: the Ionic columns bracketing the walls behind the women – and,
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She grasps at the fabric of her robe rather coquettishly – is she trying to pull the robe up over her shoulders? Or is she about to let the robe fall altogether? – but, not unlike the first courtesan, makes her true feelings known through the expression on her face. Her mouth, for example, is hard and unsmiling. And she, unlike her counterparts, is making eye contact with the viewer. In fact: she offers the viewer a cold and most contemptuous look; if Bordon means to hold the viewer accountable for his or her role in the continued and rampant sexual objectification of the female body, this courtesan of his is one of his loudest metaphorical
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