By Deligina Prifti.
Louvre.1st floor. We stand before four individual frames. Sideways, hung the portraits of two men. In the center we see the portrait of Madame Récamier. She married at 15 to the 42year-old banker Jacques-Rose Récamier & remained in that unconsummated marriage for the rest of her life. Here, she lies in a typical neoclassical style, with her disproportionate small head fading into the timeless, hazy background. Beneath her, we stumble upon the last frame, outlined by the two metal pillars, hosting two resting women.
The caption may seem asymmetrical, however the heads of the two females follow a straight line right below the feet of the récamier (yes, her name was given to the furniture after this painting). On a first glance, we might conclude that Juliette’s portrait outshines the dancers’ presence, although if the latter decide to stand up, their communal scarf would hide the painting almost in its entirety.
However, there they stand. Still. All 3 of them. Are we now talking about a fight or a synergy? Is it perhaps a ponder on femininity, of the “decency” of femininity, to be more exact , and how it is defined through the lenses of each culture?
In Juliette’s case this mention corresponds to virile neoclassicism and its patriarchal example of the “wife”, as it was thought to have been in Ancient Greece. In the second double portrait, the cultural gravitas comes from the wear of duku or Gele, the typical African headband that enslaved women used to wear as a reminder of their origin. Finally, when we look at these three women what do we see? A bodily coexistence or the osmosis of several stereotypes? Stereotypes that can be found hanging in the walls of Louvre or replayed in a Spotify track list.
Perhaps nowadays we do not need to demonise the stereotypes per se, but rather try to understand how & why they were born. Thanks to the help of Art.
And occasionally of Beyoncé.
Overall, although each frame bears myriads of symbolisms and arguments, the main question stays unanswered: Why the Louvre? Why not the MoMA even the Metropolitan Museum in New York? Are we viewing the video clip of a catchy song or an art performance based on the principals of might and power? Does the pendulum lean more to the contemporary maximalist show of wealth and status of “Queen B”, as she widely known, or to -the former palatial and now public-space of the museum? All current criticism can only be based on aesthetics and, like every other work of art, time will be the judge of whether this video is as iconic as the museum hosting it.
But here is the unexpected twist of the story: their choice to house this song inside the halls of the museum refreshes the idea of the spectacle, thus providing them with an ambiguous sanctuary. On the one hand, no one knows exactly what the couple had in mind symbolically for every single artwork that they pose in front of, but even if they told us so, it will still not be completely valid.
They have become an exhibit themselves, open to every visitor’s fruitful, mean , biased, good willing and personal interpretation, and like every other artwork its “truth” remains always as elusive and complex as the artist, the viewer and Art itself.