Thursday, August 23, 2012

Studies in Iconology

That the nude photos of Prince Harry cavorting in Las Vegas are causing an international scandal is predictable. The ancillary matter of the British tabloids, who usually gobble up such material about the royal family, showing uncharacteristic restraint, is equally predictable considering the phone hacking scandal. The fact that the 27 year old Harry is a helicopter pilot in the RAF and that the whole event takes place in Las Vegas might also recall yet another scandal, Tailhook. But let’s try to view the  incident out of context. Kierkegaard identifies three stages of life experience: the esthetic, the ethical and the religious. Let’s look at this from the esthetic point of view, as if we were walking through the Greek and Roman wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In that august institution there are numerous naked statues many of which have their penises lopped off and one of the things that art historians and lovers of art enjoy doing is analyzing the postures, in an attempt to understand them as ideal representations of beauty. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the German art historian Erwin Panofsky wrote a book called Studies in Iconology: Humanist Themes in the Art of the Renaissance. There is something almost Renaissance about the rosy cheeked Harry and his naked escort tantalizingly hidden behind the shot of the prince, demurely covering his genitalia. It’s an almost Adamic pose. Eve has already eaten her apple as it were and Harry while still brazen enough to pose for a cell phone camera is now undergoing a self inflicted penectomy similar to the ones performed on those ancient Greek statues in the Met.

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