Cerise de Printemps

Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Cerise de Printemps



With “Cerise de Printemps” Paolo Topy addresses a subject that has been dealt with repeatedly throughout the history of art: women and the fascination for their “sex” – both in the sense of their gender, and specifically their genitalia. But Paolo Topy takes a very different approach.  Here, unlike in this work’s illustrious predecessors, the woman’s sex is hidden by a pair of small blue panties trimmed with a pattern of cherries, flowers and leaves. It is a trivial, inexpensive item, the kind of underwear you can buy in packs at a discount score. The panties’ slightly naïve and almost infantile modesty contrast with the body, which belongs to an older woman. The flesh tone can’t really hide her stretch marks, which echo the state of the wall in front of which the photograph was taken. That decrepit wall channels the marble used by Canova – which is somehow too pure, too white and too smooth to be true, or Hiram Powers’, which is overly moral, overly chaste. Classical and neo-classical representations of women’s bodies, with their proper biblical or mythological references – or even Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde” (“The Origin of the World”) lose some of their allure. This shot isn’t meant to reveal an even rawer physical reality than Courbet’s famous painting, now hanging at the Musée d’Orsay, but rather a more discomforting social reality. Instead of an idealized, desirable sex, elevated by noble materials like marble, or subtle hues as in a Titian or Veronese painting, this reality is all the more touching for its fragility and its generosity. This woman is a mother. Her body bears the stigmata of birth. It is worn out, damaged. It has literally been the origin of a world. We are miles away from generally accepted erotic norms. This woman’s sex is not being exhibited to the gaze of a few art-loving fans of erotica, quite the contrary. It is the somewhat awkward modesty itself that makes this sex, not sexually desirable, but moving and fascinating.

Yves Peltier

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