tldr; This particular post is about my interest in a feature I noticed in some religious art, namely the downward gazes and large lower lips I have observed in Christian and Buddhist art, and the effect on how the eyes are rendered among others. Just one of the observations which catch my attention for some idiosyncratic reason. This is a long post which is a work in progress. You will have to revisit it a few times as I flesh it out.
The ladies in question are the ladies of the Ajanta frescoes, Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac (Mexico City), the subject of Rogier van der Weyden's Portrait of a Lady, Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy and some Youtube vloggers.
The first to discuss is van der Weyden's lady. She is the one who got me into writing up this blog after I noticed the phenomena on Our Lady of Guadalupe and frescos at Ajanta.
A Beautiful Lady - Rogier van der Weyden's Portrait of a Lady
I noticed this painting a few years ago when my interest in European art developed, and couldn't locate it again until remembering the name of the artist later when it became easier to find. I was struck by the beauty of the woman, especially the features which are suggestive of African ancestry, and the kind of devotion to detail in its creation. It is as though her African features make it an even better painting, that they allowed the painter to express his skill to the fullest. According to the information about it is 37cm x 27cm, and although hand painted, there is an almost a photographic quality about it. There is no point for me to wax effusively about it as you can click on it to see its features in more detail. Saying more about its qualities will be a digression from the purpose of this post, however worthwhile it may be.
I will say that something about the lips that stir me, especially the lower lip. It is so beautifully and lovingly rendered, that I am not just in love with it, but also in love with the love the painter had for it for him to capture it so beautifully. It as though there was a quality about her that led van der Weyden to excel himself in capturing her features so well.
The other thing I find interesting about her is her eyes, specifically her eyelids. They have this interesting wavy line to them. They form a shallow horizontal S curve, like the ~ symbol, AKA the tilde symbol.
The left eye displays this better.
Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac, Mexico City
Regular readers of this blog need no introduction to Our Lady, having already met her in The Yonis That Saved Christendom.
The following pairs of images are from the original image of the image and a reproduction. Those on the left are from a photograph of the actual tilma and those on the right are from a reproduction. The actual tilma appears to show more of the contours of her face but because it is old and rather faded, we have to depend on the newer reproduction.
The Nose and the Lips
A Habsburg lip is very much in evidence here, definitely a Habsburg lip, but prettified, very much like van der Weyden's lady.
The Ladies of Ajanta (and a few men)
So, what is this all about, this seeming fascination or fixation on the eyes and lips of Virgins and portraits? It began with the Ladies of Ajanta, that rich source of paintings of ebony beauties which was executed between 200BC and 650AD by some Buddhist monks in India. One of them is displayed in Deepa and Diya. What I noted about them is the same ~ shape to the eyelids and the larger, almost pendulous lower lips I blogged about in What's It With Our Women? - Part I.
They are a series of frescoes featuring scenes from Buddhist mythology which got hidden by forest overgrowth and was rediscovered in the 19th century by a British hunting party. It seems they were in good condition when they were discovered, but have suffered a great deal of degradation due to lack of care and damp from the moisture in the breath of tourists and visitors. The Ajanta Caves have been declared a UNESCO heritage site and some areas have been closed of for restoration.
What struck me was the seeming correlation between the ~ shape of the eyelid and the larger lower lip, and it even made me wonder whether there was some connection between the painters of the scenes at Ajanta and Ellora and the painter of the Virgin of Tepeyac. Note that the Virgin of Tepeyac is not believed to have been painted by hand, but manifested mysteriously on the cloak of a monk.
In the case of the paintings of Ajanta the combination could be a feature of the Indians of the Buddha's era or perhaps the Gupta era, or perhaps corresponded to contemporary notions of beauty. In the case of the Virgin of Tepeyac the lips could be something more prosaic but the eyes could be of some cultural or social significance, a point I will get into later.
So what is the cause of the S shape of the eyes? I am not an expert on the anatomy of the eye, but it seems like in some people, the inner corner of the eyelid extends well beyond the orbit of the eye and ends close to the nose bridge, sort of gets into the curvature of the nose bridge where it is anchored. In addition to that the point of anchoring appears to be above the centreline of eye. The end result is that when the person glances down, corner of the eyelid doesn't drop down with the central part, resulting in the ~ shape of the eyelid. I don't know if this is a good enough explanation, but there are some videos and pictures here which will help you decide, and anyone who some anatomical knowledge is free to leave a comment.
Some Beautiful Ladies (Contemporary)
How did I discover this? Given my tendency to pass the time (fritter it perhaps) ogling young women doing their makeup videos, it was only a matter of time before seeing the phenomenon live, but the phenomenon only appears when the subject is glancing downwards, which in my view makes the artists ability to notice these traits almost autistic. I don't think I would have cottoned on to it if the presence in the paintings hadn't caught my attention.
If you are not familiar with Youtube's video controls now is the time to familiarize yourself with them. When you click on the gear icon the dialog to change the playback speed pops up.
First is Janeevalove's skit on some of the outrageous/extravagant/embarrassing makeup styles African aunties wear, Around the 6:30 she starts to work around her eyes and the phenomenon is more obvious.
Next was Hals. This is a short video with some closeups around the 1:50 mark.
This is a good one because right from the start around between the 20 and 25 second mark she looks downward enough times to show the phenomenon. Her large round eyes bring out the phenomenon more. The coloured eye shadow which is lighter than her skin hides the nature of her eyeballs, but nevertheless she is the one who expresses the phenomenon best.
Mirusha also displays the phenomenon as well. She is also the trigger for another blog post on another anatomical feature I have fixated on since childhood. Stay posted.
Last but not the least - Ag. Ag Johnson. Yes her first name is that short, unsurprising giving that her sister has the short name Nya. Perhaps I should nickname her Silver. (Apparently Nya is a prefix for "girl" in the Dinka language. It makes you wonder who started using that name first, Dinkas or Somalis)
This one is so perfect. She is singing a song entitled "Pray" which is accords with the Virgin theme. After all so many sculptures and paintings of the Virgin depict her looking downwards. I don't know whether she was looking down at the text of the lyrics, or just preferred to look down when she was singing. It makes one feel that there is some higher spirit guiding one's interests.
Philip the Good and his third wife Isabella of Portugal
The portrait is attributed to some unknown painter, and the portrayal of Philip the Good is much closer to those of his other portraits than Isabella. She looks prettier in this one this compared with her other portrayals.
As you can see from the first photo, and the 2 latter ones, both Philip and Isabella display the trait when gazing downwards. If it was of some cultural significance to the painter or the person that commissioned the painting I have no idea. You may have to ask Belgians if it was of some significance then and still is. I suppose the same can be said for the Indian paintings. In the case of the Madonna, she was looking down at some worshipers looking up to her, or perhaps it could be an excuse to highlight that aspect of her anatomy. What is notable that in all three instances that look is associated with a larger lower lip. There is also some speculation that the Lady of van der Weyden's portrait is Philip the Good's daughter, which figures.
Here is the portrait of Isabella from the diptych Isabella flipped around to show her looking to her right.
If you look closely you will also see the slight bulge under her chin that Our Lady also displays. It makes you wonder who or what the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was modelled on? Are her features an ideal? Was She modelled on some people of that era, namely the noblewomen of the Iberian peninsula, or European noblewomen in general given they were so intermarried? Was She modelled on a living person who matched that model?
The deeper issue here is clearly the association of divinity with ancestors. The fact is people honour their ancestors by associating their image with the divine, or an incarnation of the divine. The worship of the divine is never dissociated from honouring the living. The living are the divine incarnate. Divinity and reverence are never disconnected from the mundane. This is an interesting concept, because from the viewpoint of a child, the mother is God. Children do not distinguish the mundane from the spiritual. When they are upset the cry for Mother, not God. It is only when they grow up and are told that there is a separate God somewhere else, or they see their mother and other women mistreated that they dissociate God from Mother. But in terms of the consciousness itself Mother is God. It is Mother that transforms the energy of the creation into intelligent, conscious, biological life.
This montage is to show a number of the ladies close to each other for comparison.
To cap it all off, here is the Afrocentric proof that Rogier van der Weyden's Lady is actually a Black woman. We are Afrocentric. You know how we do. You know how we be. It is an X-ray of the painting.
Now you guys didn't think I would forget about our Queen Elizabeth, did you?
As you can see, our most gracious queen Elizabeth is not just any regular old queen, she is a Divine Black Queen. Do you see the royal procheilon? (ed. this unctuousness brown nosing has to stop before it sinks to Burnetian depths!!)
To my dear editor - this IS a Habsburg Agenda. You know how we do, you know how we be. We are in for the long run. What we can't achieve by invasion or by marriage, we aim to achieve by turning on the much renowned Habsbourgeouis charm. We would be halfway there if not for the mind-boggling stupid and absurd arrogance of the EU technocrats. They annoyed the British natives so much that we have to start from scratch. I swear one of these days I am going to visit Brussels and exercise some Imperial prerogatives on some bureaucrats necks.