The bronze bust

I find it fascinating that people seem to find it irresistible to take indecent liberties with statues, which they would hesitate to take with a living person. Perhaps it’s the illicit thrill of symbolically breaking a taboo or the ritual enactment of a primitive urge. I guess, mostly they just think it’s funny, and of course it is!

In Verona, there’s a life-size bronze statue of Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, Juliet, in the courtyard of the house where the real Juliet is thought to have lived. When I visited there, a line of tourists were standing waiting their turn to fondle Juliet’s right breast, which has been polished smooth and shiny by countless thousands of hands. I stood in line and had my photo taken, naturally.

It is natural, isn’t it, to want to touch a naked breast? A woman’s breast must surely be, from infancy, associated with comfort and security. There are, though, other associations, which makes the touching of breasts, even those of a statue, deliciously naughty.

In a shop window in Florence, I photographed a lovely ceramic sculpture of a lecherous doctor about to caress the breast of a rather nubile patient. From her expression and posture, mind you, she seems not to be objecting one little bit. That the doctor’s hand is holding a stethoscope serves only to add a thin veneer of respectability. This, I thought was a lovely example of a statue fondling a statue, by the viewing of which one is able to derive vicarious pleasure without the guilty discomfort of doing the actual groping oneself.

I’ve tended to dwell upon breasts, (well, I am a male of the species), but there are plenty of instances of women doing rude things to male statues. It comes down to the same idea, I think, of breaking taboos, of doing the outrageous, of a woman liberating her inner trollop! The young lady in the pink tee-shirt, who posed in the photograph above, would surely not show it to her mother!

What would the sculptor think about people interacting sexually with his masterpiece? I suspect that most sculptors would enjoy it thoroughly. The artist depicts beauty, surely, to stir in his audience some deep emotion. That some people are moved in mysterious ways is just inevitable.


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