Yesterday Paulette and I watched (on DVD) the quarter-century-old bodybuilding movie Pumping Iron. It holds up well and the people in it (particularly the current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger) are charming in their naïveté and enthusaism.

Alas, less charming in retrospect is the obvious heavy juicing --- steroid use --- that the protagonists have undergone. Their distorted musculature is startling and at times bizarrely attractive, just as grossly-augumented mammary tissue can become an awesome technological spectacle (or should I say "spectacles"?!). Clearly unhealthy.

But suddenly during the movie I realized what the knotted biceps and deltoids and pectorals in Pumping Iron reminded me of: bags full of cantaloupes!

And that in turn brought to mind one of the most all-time scathing (and hilarious) sculptural critiques, by the sixteenth-century artist Benvenuto Cellini in his famously-blunt and self-serving autobiography. Speaking of a statue by arch-rival Baccio Bandinelli, an irate Cellini rants:

Well, then, this virtuous school says that if one were to shave the hair of your Hercules, there would not be skull enough left to hold his brain; it says that it is impossible to distinguish whether his features are those of a man or of something between a lion and an ox; the face too is turned away from the action of the figure, and is so badly set upon the neck, with such poverty of art and so ill a grace, that nothing worse was ever seen; his sprawling shoulders are like the two pommels of an ass' pack-saddle; his breasts and all the muscles of the body are not portrayed from a man, but from a big sack full of melons set upright against a wall. The loins seem to be modelled from a bag of lanky pumpkins; nobody can tell how his two legs are attached to that vile trunk; it is impossible to say on which leg he stands, or which he uses to exert his strength; nor does he seem to be resting upon both, as sculptors who know something of their art have occasionally set the figure. It is obvious that the body is leaning forward more than one-third of a cubit, which alone is the greatest and most insupportable fault committed by vulgar commonplace pretenders. Concerning the arms, they say that these are both stretched out without one touch of grace or one real spark of artistic talents, just as if you had never seen a naked model. Again, the right leg of Hercules and that of Cacus have got one mass of flesh between them, so that if they were to be separated, not only one of them, but both together, would be left without a calf at the point where they are touching. They say, too, that Hercules has one of his feet underground, while the other seems to be resting on hot coals.

From the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds, chapter LXX.

(see also MemorySupport (31 Oct 2002), AwesomeProwess (17 July 2003), ProfessionalJuicers (28 Jan 2004), ... )

TopicEntertainment - TopicLiterature - TopicRecreation - TopicArt - 2004-07-16

(correlates: CoreValues, Career Choice, FoodFashionFitnessFinance, ...)