We had an intriguing discussion on Friday night about Rubens and body image. It was at the Royal Academy in conjunction with the "Rubens and his Legacy" show.The point was to confront the basic, common idea of the "Rubenesque"...or, to go down a notch or two, the idea that Rubens is all about fat women. I mean, there are plenty of fat men in the Rubens repertoire, and plenty of people who are not fat at all, and plenty of clothed bodies and religious bodies... so how do we approach them?
Our panel on Friday consisted in me (as chair, probably talking too much), with in alphabetical order Germaine Greer, Grayson Perry, and Tom Shakespeare. Both Grayson and Tom expressed some antipathy to Rubens as a kick off, but where did we go from there?
Well the truth is that for quite a lot of the time we rater skirted the body issue. Take the painting above, of the Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Castor and Pollux, which was not in the RA show (although a sketch for it was). Interestingly, both panel and audience tended to focus on everything but the rape.