- Arts and Design
Félicien Rops and Pornokrates
Félicien Rops(1833-1898) was a belgian painter and caricaturist. His works are often slightly pornographic with touches of satanism. He was a rebel and some of his works were even banned in France. Rops attended a Jesuit school and received higher education at Brussel's university.
Pornokrates is the title of this painting showing a naked woman leaded by a pig. It's quite a shocking view especially if we put it in the context of more than 100 years ago. In a letter to his good friend Henri Liesse, Rops rejoiced in his piece.
"My Pornocratie is complete. This drawing delights me. I would like to show you this beautiful naked girl, clad only in black shoes and gloves in silk, leather and velvet, her hair styled. Wearing a blindfold she walks on a marble stage, guided by a pig with a "golden tail" across a blue sky. Three loves - ancient loves - vanish in tears (...) I did this in four days in a room of blue satin, in an overheated apartment, full of different smells, where the opoponax and cyclamen gave me a slight fever conducive towards production or even towards reproduction". --Letter from Rops to Henri Liesse (1879).
I see almost all what Rops saw in his Pornokrates, but I do not find particularly beautiful, in my opinion lacks taste. It has a deeper meanings as the word "porno" means explicit representation of the human body and "cracy" is a type of government as in democracy,bureaucracy,etc. Nowadays, pornocracy is not really a shocking concept simply because somehow we all live on a sort of pornocracy in which ideal bodies are praised and promote extensively(by commercials,magazines, etc.). The pig with the golden tail might mean luxury and vanity followed blindly by a woman excused by her ignorance represented by a blindfold. It could mean a filthy, ignorant man kept on a leash by a woman or more likely the puppet government as the corrupt and inefficient beast.
It was made with a mixed technique of watercolor, pastel and gouache that make it bit opaque for my taste. I have seen several of Rot's pieces and none of them really stand up. It's obsessive in his depiction of naked women performing obscene acts and the devil. Even though Rops tried to denounce the hypocricy of his time and make all kind of political statements through his paintings and cartoons, I personally feel that he took a short cut by making them rough and distasteful.