The Martyr and Me

Art model poses are all about “gesture”. It’s at the heart of what we do. And artists, when working from life, attempt first and foremost to capture the model’s gesture. You have no drawing if you don’t have the gesture, and then hopefully the authentic emotion and expression that accompanies it.

After spending an inordinate amount of time on Google Image search, I finally came across a work of figurative art whose gesture best reflects my mental and emotional state right now. I was a bit taken aback to discover that the theme and subject matter were totally unrelated to my personal situation. Yes, I saw myself in the pose, and the gesture. I connected with it quite powerfully, in fact. But the subject was not some forlorn and sexually-frustrated woman pining over a man, but none other than Mary Magdalene! Yikes.

Ever since my embarrassing “strike out” with the crush, my sleep pattern has been, let’s say, fitful? Restless? Discontented? Ill at ease? Yeah, all those adjectives work. When you harbor an attraction for someone and that attraction goes unfulfilled, you get pretty fidgety. All you can focus on is that nagging, unpleasant feeling of deprivation, the pent up energy that has nowhere to go, the longing to be touched and no one there to touch you, the aching that can drive you completely insane, and the sad realization that all the things you want to do with this person are taking place only in your imagination. It makes you sigh and cry. It makes you toss sheets around and compulsively re-arrange pillows. It makes you get up and water houseplants at 3:00 in the morning. It makes you open the refrigerator door and start nibbling on carrot sticks.

Now I am definitely no Biblical scholar. So I learned from some quick research that this painting by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre portrays Mary Magdalene in the years after Christ’s crucifixion, when she lived like a hermit in a cave in Saint-Baume, France. Isolated. Doing penance for past sins. Contrast these circumstances with mine, and you have a really sick bundle of disparities. Mary was contrite over bad behavior. I’m trying to partake in some. Mary purposely placed herself in seclusion. I’m trying to break out of mine. Mary was in the south of France. I am in Queens, NY. Yeah, this is too funny. And yet, the gesture of this painting suits us both!

But can someone back me up here? Is this pose, or is it not, a little erotic? Or am I just so horny that I can’t tell the difference anymore and interpreting sex in everything? Well, either way, it reminds me of myself in bed last night. I really wish I was doing an art modeling job this very moment because I’d do this pose and boy would I nail it! Kind of like the “Method” school of art modeling. Marlon Brando ain’t got nothing on me.

Here is Lefebvre’s Mary Magdalene in the Grotto, from 1876:


Lefebvre, by the way, is one of those Art Renewal Center darlings, like our old pal Bouguereau. French academic painter. Tons of female nudes and subjects. Sounds like a guy who might find his way onto Museworthy again very soon.

17 thoughts on “The Martyr and Me

  1. Ok, now stand up like Chloe which is a favourite of mine. It has a wonderful story, bought by an Australian, discovered by his wife who sold it in anger, ended up in an Australian pub bar where it has become famous.

    The future is bright, no more doom and gloom, its almost Christmas, then snow drops and bluebells all the way to a 2009, my lucky number. We all need some “Pollyanna Spirit”

    PS, when do you have that “Thanks giving” day, I have always thought we should have one too.

  2. Ron says:

    Erotique? Tres!. (She is in France after all) Of course though I am no biblical, or artistic, scholar, I wonder how distraught she is about the past behavior when she does appear to be ready, at least in this painting, to resume said behavior at a moment’s notice.

    I know how bad you’re feeling right now but you do get over it. Time wounds all heels. Consider yourself to be figuratively hugged.

  3. ColdSilverMoon says:

    Thanks for the post, Claudia, and thanks for being so open with your readers. I’m sorry that you are going through this now – you certainly don’t deserve it. But look at it this way: if your crush doesn’t return your interest, he really doesn’t deserve you anyway. You are a wonderful woman with TONS to offer. I know waiting is very hard emotionally and physically, but the right man will come into your life. We’re all cheering for you, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had the exact same experience you’re having now, so we can certainly emphathize. We hope nothing but the best for you, Claudia! Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    As for the painting – yes, it is certainly sensual, if not frankly erotic. The skin tones are very lush and bright, the curves are smooth, the pose is somewhat “beckoning.” With the light focused on her torso, our eyes are drawn initially to her breasts and abdomen, then follow to her slightly spread legs. At the same time her look is somewhat anxious and she covers her face seemingly out of shame. I’m not an art critic, but it seems Lefebvre, like Bouguereau, is delighting us with the sensual beauty of the female body and at the same time indicating it is a cause for Mary’s shame. Lovely painting! And might I say you would look lovely in that pose.

    A brief note on Mary Magdalene: the idea that she lived in France as a hermit after Christ died is part of gnostic mythology (like The Da Vinci Code), as is the idea that she was promiscuous or a prostitute. The Bible says she was a “sinner” and demon possessed. Jesus cast out her demons and she became a follower of Him. There’s no reason to think that she would need to do penance for her sins; Jesus forgave her freely through grace, just like He forgives everyone else. She didn’t need to do penance to earn that forgiveness, and she could keep doing those beautiful poses and feel no need to hide her face!

  4. dougrogers says:

    I give good back rubs.

  5. artmodel says:

    Robert, I love Chloe! I’m familiar with that painting. Nice standing pose and model. Some impressive work by Lefebvre.

    I can always count on your optimism. You don’t like to see me sad, and I appreciate that.

    Our Thanksgiving Day is Thursday, November 27th. Approaching fast.

    Thanks for your comments, as always ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. artmodel says:


    I happily accept that “figurative hug”. Feels nice!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw a touch of eroticism in this painting. Now I don’t feel like too much of a nymphomaniac ๐Ÿ˜‰


  7. artmodel says:


    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your warm words of support! They were so comforting, and they truly made me feel better. I’m lucky to have online friends like you.

    What an excellent analysis of the painting you presented. It made me look at the painting even closer, with your description in mind. Who says you’re not an art critic? We all are as far as I’m concerned. You should have a blog, friend. You’re be great at it! Hell, if I can!

    Thanks again, for such wonderful comments.


  8. artmodel says:


    I’m sure you do . . . and one of those would be absolutely heavenly right now ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. ray says:

    Where can I find a model like this with that long red hair?

  10. artmodel says:

    Ray, I have no idea. That’s pretty hard to find. But good luck searching.

  11. Chris Miller says:

    Cheesecake tempered with phony piety – art for the lusty but sanctimonious bourgeois.

    I’m not sure that Bouguereau and Lefebre were any less talented than Titian — they just lacked his happier attitude toward life.

  12. dougfromcanada says:

    Ahh yes Claudia, the gesture, it does all start from there, and this is one terrific gesture and yes you probably would nail it!

  13. ray says:

    I’m happy you found the gesture in this particular engageing pose. A lot of artists would say there is no gesture. They want all that twisting and torque. These classical poses and the one you chose inparticular has a beautiful graceful gesture that you spotted, and one has to be open to it to see it. Thanks Claudia for opening our eyes, and being so sensitive to it. The more I look at it the more I like it . It says it all!

  14. artmodel says:


    Why don’t you tell us what you really think? ๐Ÿ˜† Just kidding.

    I don’t know if I would go so far as to say “cheesecake” regarding this particular painting, but I see your point.

    I take it you’re not a big Bouguereau fan either? That guy really provokes strong opinions.

    Thanks for commenting!


  15. artmodel says:


    Thank you friend! Gesture all the way ๐Ÿ™‚


  16. ColdSilverMoon says:

    The more I look at this painting the more I realize one thing: that model has a HOT body. Not a stick-thin Hollywood body people idealize these days, but a genuinely gorgeous female figure. Forgive my male 8-second moment, but wow…this turns me on almost as much as your Fred Hatt erotic drawing, Claudia!

  17. artmodel says:


    Woo hoo!! Yeah, baby. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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