Writing Prompt 20
Look at this assembly of beautiful creatures, gods and idols with Venus in the middle of the picture and the graces dancing blissfully unaware of what’s happening around them. Hermes to the left, the messenger of gods is present as well, and Cupid is flying above his mother shooting one of his arrows of love blindly to ignite this everlasting purpose of life—love. It seems like a happy painting, doesn’t it? Yet how about Zephyr to the right depicted in a rather violent scene of raping Chloris, who seems to be shown transformed into Flora as the third person from the right, a goddess happy and content in her marriage life after Zephyr feels ashamed and takes her as his wife. It’s quite a complicated painting it seems mixing love with sex, ignorance and violence, but it apparently leads to a happy ending. Master Sandro Boticelli might have spent over a year painting and perfecting this painting, but it was definitely worth the effort.
Now let’s think about the ideas we could gather from the painting and think about them in context. The painting is believed to be a wedding gift. Who would have painted a scene of rape as a wedding gift to be hung in the wedding chamber most probably? Yet the image of Flora, happy or rather satisfied with the outcome of her destiny giving in to the domination of the male might do the trick. I can now put myself in the bride’s shoes, who was probably still in her late teens and try to digest all of these things mentioned in the image. How could I accept my destiny? Or would it be a revolutionary notion to have at these times (c. 1482) and it would never have crossed the mind of the bride at all? What if she had this idea in mind? How would she struggle against all those around her that destined her to be her husband’s shadow for the rest of her life? I don’t know, there might be a poem in these ideas, so buckle up and go write something about it, or just wait to read the rest and have more ideas to write about.
This time I would like to think about the same theme but in a modern setting. How many women live and die in the shade of men they barely care about, yet can only obey for these men are the bread and butter of the family although the woman might be the bread winner more than the man in our times? How much of this image do we still have today in our world? And I am not taking about an unheard-of village somewhere near the Amazon, but about big cosmopolitan cities. The big difference of course is the reaction of women today. The reaction to a dark enslaving image like cannot be taken for granted nowadays and the women of our times do have other means to respond. Yet does that mean they are not living in the shadows of men anymore. Maybe, it’s true for some, but I still believe that most women are still there and waiting to be free. What would a woman from our time say about that. Maybe, there is a short story about that or a poem. Who knows? Well, of course you do, so get to it and write something. Or maybe, you would want to read the last part before you do.
Botticelli’s Primavera left me with yet another idea, that might be dark and wicked. Here again, I am talking about Chloris who turned into Flora after Zephyr raped her and made her his wife. You look around and see thousands of stories like that, not necessarily involving rape, but about women drawn to men who ill-treat them, and sometimes the more they get hurt, the more they love the man. Freud would have simple explain it by being a masochist and for him, maybe most women are, but I don’t think it is about masochism, but machoism and the high level of manly behavior women expect from men, even if that means they might get hurt sometimes. It’s a bit of a contradiction here. What do you think? Personally I think that I can forgive my lover no matter how many times she hurt me and cry rivers on her account, but not even once if she does it on purpose. Would a woman do that? And if so, have women never changed as men have not? All these are questions to open discussions and ideas finding their ways to your blank paper. I am not taking sides here, but the best conclusions we come up with are usually the ones we think over off-limit ideas.
Now what do you do?
You can write a poem, a short story or what have you about women in the time of the renaissance and the way they were treated; your point of view can be a man’s or a woman’s, whatever sounds more interesting to you. You can also write about the same notion but from a modern perspective and see if the themes we uncovered in Boticelli’s painting relate to our times in any way. Finally, you can dig deeper in the psyche of women and see if they do seek that image of the romantic macho man on purpose and where that might lead them. And maybe that brings me to a final question, can there be a real romantic macho man? I hope you have come up with some ideas to write about and please do share what you have written in order to expand the discussion even further, and don’t forget to come back next week for a new painting and a new writing prompt from Hungry Writer.