BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

BAR Charged With Obscenity

Defining-BeautyThrough July 5, 2015
The British Museum
London, Great Britain
www.britishmuseum.org

Believe it or not, BAR is occasionally censored for containing indecent material. The ancients did not have the same ideas of propriety as some moderns, and sometimes when we publish beautiful pieces of artwork, it is deemed illicit by Sunday school teachers, prison officials and others, thereby depriving some of our readers of their beloved BAR. For example, a prisoner was not able to receive either the November/December 2014 or January/February 2015 issues of BAR because of sexually explicit content. Does this censorship imply that our society is prudish, or that the ancients were licentious?

Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art, a new exhibit at the British Museum, addresses these very questions. There was a lot of nudity in Greek art, but depicting figures in the nude was more than just artistic preference. It was related to the ancient Greeks’ set of ideals.

The Greeks chose to represent their heroes in the nude. They viewed the human body as beautiful and full of meaning. Thus, they often depicted it in its natural state.

Other ancient peoples did not feel the same way. In Assyrian sculpture, for example, nudity was seen as shameful. Prisoners of war might be depicted in the nude, but never a king. Greek art represented a mythologized world—not necessarily a literal one—where the human body was often idealized.

Around 150 pieces of Greek art appear in the exhibit, including the Belvedere Torso, Lely’s Venus (above) and the Discobolus by Myron. additionally, some of the famed elgin marbles make an appearance in the exhibit, which is the first time these sculptures have been moved from their permanent exhibit at the British Museum to a temporary exhibit.

The exhibit is accompanied by a catalog edited by the exhibit’s curator Ian Jenkins: Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art (London: British Museum Press, 2015).


Tracing the enigmatic, mystical genesis of the Greek Olympiad, The Olympic Games: How They All Began takes you on a journey to ancient Greece with some of the finest scholars of the ancient world. Ranging from the original religious significance of the games to the brutal athletic competitions, this free eBook paints a picture of the ancient sports world and its devoted fans.


 


11 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    There will always be illiterate, uneducated people who look at ancient art and see no beauty of our male and female forms, which by the way, were actually formed in the beginning by our Creator.
    Thank heaven for those long ago artists who tell us by their beautiful sculptures and paintings that we are still God’s beautiful children.
    I cannot and will not believe he would have created our human forms in any other way except as he wanted us to be, beautiful.
    Thus we could then also see the beauty in our Creator.

  2. Rob Palmer says:

    Religious prudes just add another police state factor to our society. These ignorant people have no sense of their own position in assuming a superior role and determining what others may view. My father was a commercial artist and a descendant of Charlemagne, and I inherit his mature appreciation of the nude body. Must I follow the dictates of the ignorant, who fear that they cannot control themselves?

  3. Lindsey says:

    now MY reply to that accusation would be obscene…

  4. Jim42 says:

    I am somehow in controversy with my memory…I can’t remember if I wrote some aggressive comment (!?) But I would say that thought this was more a question for Puritans from the US as than Brittany …
    Between Hays Code idiocy and constant pornographic invasive obsession of US and British movies and Press perversity, English speakers should be able to find some reasonable Mid Way ?Shouldn’t they?

  5. Paige says:

    Making a second issue of BAR that doesn’t include questionable material will only create new problems and solve nothing. Everyone will/can find something questionable involving art. My guess is that the people who are actually subscribed to BAR have at least some concept of the type of highly specialized material they will be exposed to – essentially, that in some ancient art-forms, there may be some sculptural nudity. If it is Sunday School teachers that are specifically concerned, why not have an office administrator tape over “questionable” images before giving it to children?

    Maybe I’m not understanding the manpower behind BAR but if major journals and magazines don’t make second “censored” versions, why and how would BAR be able to do this? That’s a big time, and possibly financial, commitment to a very small minority. Not to mention – you can’t always predict 100% what materials others may take issue with.

    BAR you’re doing a great job and thanks for sharing this silly but interesting issue that has taken place behind the scenes at Bar, with your readers. Keep up the good work!

  6. Robert Wm. "Francis" Ruedisueli says:

    A good solution is to make a second version of these issues that remove the materials in question. This is the best compromise, and sometimes you have to chose your battles.

    I understand school teachers and Sunday School teachers being concerned about adolescents giggling over works of art that don’t meet modern standards of censorship.

    Despite the fact that enforcing these unfair censorship standards is not healthy, neither is permitting such lewd and immature behavior that results from that standard. You have to chose your battles against these standards for when they are appropriate.

    Forcing people to chose between not receiving the issue at all, and receiving the one with the works of art that include nudity is probably not the best place to make a stand against the censorship that results from, and propagates, the modern overly sexual view of the human body.

    Instead, making note of the fact that you had to create a second, censored, version would be far more effective not bring awareness of the sad state of censorship in the modern western world.

  7. brentd4 says:

    There is a fine line between the obscene and art for art’s sake. I live in Tasmania and I used to work at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart. A few years ago a new museum opened down here called Mona and their most talked about exhibit is by far the wall of vaginas. I love art in many of its forms, but to me this is not art, but pure pornography. The museum is free to the local public, but I won’t bother to go and have a look, even though one of my past colleagues was involved in the design stage of the museum. The purpose of the installations seems to be to shock people. This is not art, but rather a crude way to get people through the doors. On the other hand you have wonderful masterpieces from ancient times which celebrate the human form. This is art and it should be appreciated by everyone no matter what their circumstances are.

  8. Ken Lucini says:

    As I recall, God created man. Nude. Unashamed. Perfect.

  9. Stuart says:

    Some people need to get a life.

  10. Roland Pena says:

    Some people are not fully cultivated to enjoy art and history of the past.

  11. Jack Hampus says:

    . To review nudity or sexual practices as the ‘naughty stuff’ and should be censored does not belong in the science of archaeology nor in any field of human studies. To understand the past and the peoples of that time, view and report on what is discovered, not on your prudish opinions..

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11 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    There will always be illiterate, uneducated people who look at ancient art and see no beauty of our male and female forms, which by the way, were actually formed in the beginning by our Creator.
    Thank heaven for those long ago artists who tell us by their beautiful sculptures and paintings that we are still God’s beautiful children.
    I cannot and will not believe he would have created our human forms in any other way except as he wanted us to be, beautiful.
    Thus we could then also see the beauty in our Creator.

  2. Rob Palmer says:

    Religious prudes just add another police state factor to our society. These ignorant people have no sense of their own position in assuming a superior role and determining what others may view. My father was a commercial artist and a descendant of Charlemagne, and I inherit his mature appreciation of the nude body. Must I follow the dictates of the ignorant, who fear that they cannot control themselves?

  3. Lindsey says:

    now MY reply to that accusation would be obscene…

  4. Jim42 says:

    I am somehow in controversy with my memory…I can’t remember if I wrote some aggressive comment (!?) But I would say that thought this was more a question for Puritans from the US as than Brittany …
    Between Hays Code idiocy and constant pornographic invasive obsession of US and British movies and Press perversity, English speakers should be able to find some reasonable Mid Way ?Shouldn’t they?

  5. Paige says:

    Making a second issue of BAR that doesn’t include questionable material will only create new problems and solve nothing. Everyone will/can find something questionable involving art. My guess is that the people who are actually subscribed to BAR have at least some concept of the type of highly specialized material they will be exposed to – essentially, that in some ancient art-forms, there may be some sculptural nudity. If it is Sunday School teachers that are specifically concerned, why not have an office administrator tape over “questionable” images before giving it to children?

    Maybe I’m not understanding the manpower behind BAR but if major journals and magazines don’t make second “censored” versions, why and how would BAR be able to do this? That’s a big time, and possibly financial, commitment to a very small minority. Not to mention – you can’t always predict 100% what materials others may take issue with.

    BAR you’re doing a great job and thanks for sharing this silly but interesting issue that has taken place behind the scenes at Bar, with your readers. Keep up the good work!

  6. Robert Wm. "Francis" Ruedisueli says:

    A good solution is to make a second version of these issues that remove the materials in question. This is the best compromise, and sometimes you have to chose your battles.

    I understand school teachers and Sunday School teachers being concerned about adolescents giggling over works of art that don’t meet modern standards of censorship.

    Despite the fact that enforcing these unfair censorship standards is not healthy, neither is permitting such lewd and immature behavior that results from that standard. You have to chose your battles against these standards for when they are appropriate.

    Forcing people to chose between not receiving the issue at all, and receiving the one with the works of art that include nudity is probably not the best place to make a stand against the censorship that results from, and propagates, the modern overly sexual view of the human body.

    Instead, making note of the fact that you had to create a second, censored, version would be far more effective not bring awareness of the sad state of censorship in the modern western world.

  7. brentd4 says:

    There is a fine line between the obscene and art for art’s sake. I live in Tasmania and I used to work at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart. A few years ago a new museum opened down here called Mona and their most talked about exhibit is by far the wall of vaginas. I love art in many of its forms, but to me this is not art, but pure pornography. The museum is free to the local public, but I won’t bother to go and have a look, even though one of my past colleagues was involved in the design stage of the museum. The purpose of the installations seems to be to shock people. This is not art, but rather a crude way to get people through the doors. On the other hand you have wonderful masterpieces from ancient times which celebrate the human form. This is art and it should be appreciated by everyone no matter what their circumstances are.

  8. Ken Lucini says:

    As I recall, God created man. Nude. Unashamed. Perfect.

  9. Stuart says:

    Some people need to get a life.

  10. Roland Pena says:

    Some people are not fully cultivated to enjoy art and history of the past.

  11. Jack Hampus says:

    . To review nudity or sexual practices as the ‘naughty stuff’ and should be censored does not belong in the science of archaeology nor in any field of human studies. To understand the past and the peoples of that time, view and report on what is discovered, not on your prudish opinions..

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