There’s a time and place for artwork historians to convey their experience to bear on modern points — like when TikToker and artwork historian Mary McGillivray mapped angles and visible geometry to debunk the Eurovision cocaine controversy. And there may be additionally a time and place by which tying the whole lot, nonetheless weakly, to Western artwork historical past is a little bit of a stretch — and that point and place could also be right here and now, because the Web makes an attempt to attract a comparability between the duvet picture of Beyoncé’s new album, Renaissance, and John Collier’s circa 1898 portray “Woman Godiva.”
In all equity, the novel spirit and ethical power channeled by Woman Godiva resonate with the lyrics of Beyoncé’s single launched prematurely of the album, “Break My Soul.” In line with the legendary story, the Eleventh-century gentlewoman rode bare via the Coventry market on a wager together with her husband, who stated if she did so, he would cut back an oppressive tax on their folks. In Beyoncé’s music, interpreted by some as an anti-capitalist anthem, the musician belts out, “And I simply give up my job / I’m gonna discover new drive / Rattling, they work me so rattling onerous / Work by 9, then off previous 5” earlier than repeating the refrain: “You gained’t break my soul.”
However Collier’s explicit interpretation of the legend has no resemblance to the newly unveiled album cowl. The bearing of Woman Godiva in Collier’s portray is downcast and self-conscious, having nothing in widespread with Beyoncé’s calm, confident, direct-to-camera stare. She appears frankly unconcerned about the whole lot, as much as and together with your taxes.
You could possibly say the pictures are visually related, within the sense that they each function a reasonably bare lady on a horse. However even a cursory Web seek for “lady bare on a horse” reveals that Collier’s paintings will not be the one and even the most effective referent for the picture. The truth is, Carlijn Jacobs — the photographer who shot the duvet artwork for Beyoncé — has invoked the trope earlier than. And others have pointed to Bianca Jagger’s memorable entrance on horseback to Studio 54 in 1977.
And one Twitter consumer additionally noticed that it isn’t unusual for Beyoncé to look using horses in pictures and movies, a theme they described as an invocation of her Texan roots.
Since “Woman Godiva” will not be a Renaissance portray, there may be not even a tenuous connection to be made to the title of Beyoncé’s album, Renaissance — and given Beyoncé’s specific dedication to Black feminism, a extra convincing reference can be the Harlem Renaissance, anyway. That didn’t cease some folks from persevering with to liken it to a factor a Western White painter did 100 years in the past — and it additionally didn’t cease different folks on Twitter from mocking them for it.
So far as what Queen Bey has to say on the matter, the Instagram put up presenting the duvet as a teaser for the July 29 album drop says, “My intention was to create a protected place, a spot with out judgment. A spot to be freed from perfectionism and overthinking. A spot to scream, launch, really feel freedom.”
The true ethical right here is that not the whole lot is about Western artwork — as takes on the connection between imagery in Beyoncé’s 2016 visible album Lemonade and African artwork makes clear. And with regards to Beyoncé, it’s reductionist to look to a slender artwork historic canon.