Fall from Grace

'Three Graces' by Antonia Canova (completed in 1817)

On the re-definition of the ancient trio of the ‘Three Graces’ by Canova, Griselda Pollack theorises this neo-classical sculpture of three women is stripped of its historical, mythological roots by ‘phallocentric’ culture. The figures no longer symbolising three ages, three principles of youth, sexuality/fertility and death but three young women caught in a passive and ultimately ineffectual display of beauty.

‘Thus the link with the feminine is not as an attribute of any notion of women, then or now. It is an intellectual creation that may come to find a form of representation through personification (pagan thinking). It is an initiating conceptualisation that may deteriorate to being seen as the mere reflection of the body, or gender chosen, logically not anatomically or sexually to personify the idea of the ethical. To reduce the fundamental principle of grace which in Hebrew, chesed, forms one the foundation of the social human contract to some prettification of three ageless eroticised young women is to empty out from modern thought any potential for the feminine as a principle, structure or logic derived imaginatively from real processes around life, desire, death and the gift to contribute to the human.’

Griselda Pollock ‘Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum’ page 45.

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