Guess what work of art I’m talking about


NOTE: I am going to use my own text, translated by Copilot, to prepare the video for the fifth exercise in my English subject. I am going to make a map of vocabulary, tips and expressions, instead of preparing an outline. Companions: as the teacher said, your task is to guess which painting I am talking about.

Cómo uso la Inteligencia Artificial para adaptar este complejo texto mío español a mi competencia real en inglés, o cómo preparo un breve vídeo a partir del texto amplio

1. Señalo en este texto el vocabulario que desconozco.
2. Escribo un texto más reducido desde el inglés que sé, con frases más cortas y vocabulario más reducido; dejo huecos que relleno, después, usando este texto amplio.
3. Corrijo la ortografía y sintaxis del texto. Como tengo LibreOffice que no tiene esa opción, he pegado el texto en el cuerpo de un correo de Google.
4. Traduzco el texto en el traductor de Google, por si tengo que hacer correcciones (vocabulario que interpreto mal, etc.) Hago las correcciones.
5. En el traductor de Google, lo oigo (porque tiene esa opción) y lo grabo en mi WhatsApp.
6. Lo oigo muchas veces para habituarme a la pronunciación.
7. Hago un esquema con las ideas principales de mi texto.
8. Grabo el vídeo con mis propias palabras.

Pre-iconographic description
We find ourselves in the National Prado Museum, in front of an absolutely imposing oil on canvas, almost two meters high, which represents a figure in the foreground bathed by a brilliant side light, and another in the background. The first, which seems to contemplate us with thoughtful fixity, is partially alopecic, has a beard and carries in her arms a baby who rests placidly while being breastfed, for which she reveals a round and large breast. She delicately holds the baby’s body, her hands barely seem to hold it, because of the softness with which they hold it. From the arm hangs a white cloth, which stands out for its light and seems to allude to the care of the relationship. From the baby we see the profile, and that he brings his lips to a nipple that he does not suck. The breast stands out for its centrality and high implantation in the chest, which is guessed to be covered with hair, so that it is very contiguous to the beard, underlining the apparent incompatibility of both.

The light illuminates the left half of the set formed by this figure with the baby in her arms and her clothing, which reaches almost to her feet, while the other half and the second figure remain in shadow, to the point that of the second only the head, neck and hands are distinguished. In addition, the light accentuates the verticality of the set, from the headdress of the main figure to the lower edge of the clothing and makes several successive spherical foci stand out in contiguity and contrast: the first is the alopecic head, and, successively, the beard, the chest, the baby’s head and the baby’s body to end in the semicircular shadow that the baby’s body projects on the clothes.

The color is equally sober, synthetic. It uses ranges of warm tones: reds, browns and yellows, and works harmonizing analogues, both in the skin of the figures and in the elements of the attire. Even the objects in the painting unfold in the same ranges. On the transversal axis of the exact center of the composition, the tone that contrasts most with the rest is the cloth that wraps the baby, (RGB 174, 74, 40, HEX #AE4A28 in this reproduction), which would correspond to a toasted ochre or Indian red; it is also the most saturated tone. In this way, our attention follows an imaginary cross, in which, on the pole, the brightness highlights the main figure, while on the crossbar, the tone highlights the baby.

The peculiarity that surprises and that the painter shows with extreme delicacy and respect in all the treatment is that the figure presents female breasts and distribution of male androgenic hair, because it is not usual that we see both in the same person, due, on the one hand, to a much lower prevalence of that conjunction than the usual pattern and on the other hand to the fact that, when it occurs, it tends to be hidden. The infrequent and scarce in terms of quantity is tended to be hidden, and that in this sense escapes from “the norm”, simply because it is unusual or disused.

Iconographic analysis

The explicit keys of meaning that the painter wants to grant to the work appear on the tombstone on the right: references to the miracle of nature that he portrays, to himself and to his benefactor. Through the only objects that appear as motifs, the spindle and the shell, the theme of the convergence in the same person of secondary characters of both sexes is represented, which, at that time, is interpreted as hermaphroditism. The bearded woman theme has a long trajectory in art, but we do not have the tools or space to address it here.

Regarding unmentioned or implicit keys that we can deduce or imagine, we have the short stature of the painter, less than a meter and a half, and roundness and softness of his youthful features, both facts that could denote some type of syndrome that carried some type of trait that made him particularly sensitive to this theme; of course, this is a mere assumption, but no more erratic than much of what has been said about this painting and its composition circumstances.

In any case, we consider this work, made precisely in the stage of creative maturity of the painter, intensely subjective; a work in which the motif is an excuse for projection. A silent and beautiful sublimation of everything that the context, the era and the contemporaries do not let emerge explicitly, but that continues to beat. Something that comes to us as an intense river, through that deep and meaningful look more enigmatic than that of the Mona Lisa and, contrary to the latter, totally devoid of placidity. A look that is sustained in time when we look at it when we visit the painting live, a look in which very complex passions cross, passions that the painter was able to portray and that we can hardly even name.

Iconological interpretation

The interest in the representation of human beings with infrequent body characteristics and their association with exhibition, leisure or entertainment activities determine the demand for the portrait. Far from the common place that Theophile Gauthier fed forgetting the game of the sublime and the grotesque, according to which there would exist in the painter a “taste for the ugly”, the representation is impregnated with a great respect for the figure portrayed, as high as that of Velázquez when he portrayed El bufón el primo (1645).

Nothing as revealing of an era as the meanings it attributes to works of art. The history of the vicissitudes in the reception of this work is something that should be the subject of study when addressing its iconological analysis, from the interpretation of Theophile Gautier to, at the present time, the qualifiers that institutions and professionals of reputed fame attribute to the portrayed, without any modesty and without thinking that the protagonist represents all those women whose hirsutism is assumed and integrated into the wide space that gender studies have opened in the world of many of us. Not all of us, and this is what we find on some Internet sites:

Deformity: “In the 16th and 17th centuries, deformities were entertainment.”
Essentialist ideas about gender: “…confirming that this bearded being is indeed a woman.”
Rating of “curiosity of nature”: “…curiosities of nature, such as dwarfs, jesters or, in this case, a bearded woman”
Categorization as a case (from a medical perspective hardly sustainable in this context, after Foucault): “scientific culture: the case of the bearded woman”.
And, above all, what, knowing what we know today in biology and medicine, is the cruelest, no matter what the inscription on the painting says: monster. Because to say monster, “what presents deviations with respect to its species” according to the Spanish Academy of Language, is to say of something (and of all the beings that that “something” represents) that does not enter into that broad and comprehensive space that is today gender, that is today queer.

A “miracle of nature”, they explain to us, is a “perceptible effect to the senses that surpasses the powers of nature and of all created beings”; but time has passed, the West knows a lot about the body, although we cannot say the same about humanity: there is much to educate. We know that she is, simply, a case of hirsutism. The painter spoke with love and respect, and treated with the delicacy of one who understands. She is, plainly and simply, one more among us, in a world that, as we said, we want to be broad and comprehensive. Monstrous, today and then, discrimination, exclusion and ignorance.

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