Raphael and the Body Electric

A few days ago I received an email from Sedef Piker, an art history and travel blogger, in which she generously invited me to take part in an online tribute the life and work of  Hasan Niyazi – a fellow art historian and blogger who left us far, far too soon. The “Day for Hasan” would coincide with the birthday of Raphael and consist of original blog postings written for the occasion. Honored that I was even asked to participate, I contemplated what my contribution should be and decided that I would respectfully leave the art historical discourses to the experts and the intimate recollections to those of course who knew Hasan personally. What I can offer instead is the point of view of an artist’s model toward the Renaissance master who so inspired Hasan’s passion.

My world is infused with figure drawing. Yes I have sat for countless portraits and oil paintings. But my years as a professional artist’s model have made clear one incontrovertible truth about the creation of art: drawing is the most vital and essential skill an artist can master. For it is from drawing the human form that all timeless art flows. Raphael’s magnificent paintings and frescoes exist because he was, above all else, a gifted master draftsman. Easily one of the best who ever lived. And when the rules of propriety constrained artists of Raphael’s day from working from nude female models – a taboo practice -Raphael did it anyway. Gotta love him for that.

Day in and day out, I see artists drawing my body, in chalk and charcoal, pen and graphite and conte crayon. Some do it with difficulty, others with facility, aspiring to capture the gestures, lines, volume, movement, and humanity of their life subject. If I could jump in a time machine and travel back to Rome in 1508, I’d bang on Raphael’s studio door and beg to pose for him. And based on accounts of Raphael’s irresistible charms I’d bring a bottle of red wine too 😉

Hasan regularly expressed his admiration for my work as an artist’s model. He also enjoyed my blogging content which often includes art images with poetry. So for my friend Hasan who I miss very much on 3PipeProblem, Twitter, and warm, joyful notes in my email inbox, here are some Raphael drawings accompanied by excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “I Sing The Body Electric”, for a Museworthy virtual life drawing session:

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Raphael-KneelingWoman

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not           ….hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

Raffaello_Sanzio_-_Figure_Studies_-_WGA18939

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their
….dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent ….green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,

Raphael_psyche_offering_venus_the_water_of_styx-large

The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his
….saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their
….wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the
….crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured,
….native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through ….clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,

Raphael_-_Young_Man_Carrying_an_Old_Man_on_His_Back,_c._1514_-_Google_Art_Project

The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the
….listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and
….pause, listen, count.

Sanzio_-_Study_for_Two_Female_Figures;_Hebe_and_Proserpine

There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in
….the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

18 thoughts on “Raphael and the Body Electric

  1. Thanks, Claudia, for a really beautiful post and a fresh, original point of view–which takes us right to the heart of what Raphael was all about! Ed G.

  2. Tom McGohey says:

    Yes, perfect connection! Walt would approve, I’m certain.

  3. Dave says:

    What a wonderful post, Claudia. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Raphael, and I love the use of Whitman. As a professor myself, I almost feel like you should be offering college (or grad school) credit for these essays, and we readers should have to apply to get into Museworthy U. But I’m very glad we don’t.

    Dave

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      I smiled at “Museworthy U”. Rest assured that if such a thing existed, the application standards would not be stringent; only a willingness to pose nude for an art class, in which case you would pass with flying colors 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

      • Dave says:

        I agree that a willingness to pose nude for art classes guarantees automatic admission to Museworthy U., but there’s gotta be a separate admissions track for all of your artists and other admirers who keep their clothes on.

  4. Bill says:

    Really nice — I’ve always been a big Raphael fan. This posting remind me of a recurring fantasy — you know how some models will spend part of a break at a drop-in session checking out the drawings/paintings? Some are usually pretty good, some come under the category of “good efforts” — the model may offer a few words of encouragement or a compliment. Then the model comes to someone who is really Raphael (or Michelangelo), checks out the drawing, and he/she thinks/exclaims, “. . .!”

    BTW, should you ever hitch a ride with Dr. Who or Mr. Peabody and meet Raphael, let me offer you a piece of advise: Don’t drink the wine yourself. 🙂 A bit of a cad, eh?

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      I like your fantasy. Mine is a little different though in that if I were posing for the great Raphael, not a lot of drawing would get done, if you catch my drift 😉 Handsome, seductive, and affable guy by all accounts. Sure I’m a professional 99% of the time but … Raphael :swoon:

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  5. Sedef says:

    The point of view from the other side of the easel… art and poety… making connections…even time-travel! What a lovely post. Thank you so much for your contribution.

    • artmodel says:

      Sedef,

      And thank YOU for bringing me into this very special event. I’m honored to share space with so many fantastic bloggers, art historians, and loved ones of Hasan.

      Appreciate your comments!

      Claudia

  6. I think Hasan would have appreciated your combination of poetry and art in this post – those are two things which he really loved. The words of the poem caused me to look at these drawings in a fresh and new way. Thank you!

    • artmodel says:

      M,

      I had many an exchange with Hasan about poetry. And he was a fine verse-maker himself. I think he would have enjoyed this post. I’m so glad you enjoyed it too 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  7. fredh1 says:

    I would never have thought of putting Raphael and Whitman together, but, by golly it works, emphasizing both artists’ bursting vitality – a quality you embody as a model.

    • artmodel says:

      Fred,

      I’ve always believed that if you combine “greatnesses” the blended results will most likely be great as well. Timeless creations – whether in the form of art, music, poetry, etc. – exist on a shared plane of beauty and expressiveness. Also, Whitman is simply “the bomb”, to use a not-so-poetic colloquialism 😆

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  8. Derek says:

    These are lovely, Raphael is also my favorite renaissance artist.
    Were any of them done in pastels by any chance?

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