Winter for me means layers: under, middle, over-the-top Michelin-man layers. You name it, I’ve strapped and wrapped it around my person as soon as the first flake flutters to the floor. There are precious few concessions to style or sexiness when the season turns against me: my coat is only form-fitting because it’s hotter inside that way.
When the temp takes the plunge I always think back to a Cambridge friend who looked at winter as the most lovely and lusty of wardrobe opportunities. “Think of it,” she’d say, “the full-length fur drops to the floor to reveal a ravishing little number beneath. What could be more fantasy-filled?” Or freakin’ freezing, I remember thinking. So thank goodness I can turn to Gotlzius at the NGA, who’ll let me steam up your screens with some barely-there beauties without me exposing any extremities to the chill. The Fall of Man positively sizzles with skin-on-skin suggestiveness, and should be more than enough to warm the cockles over a winter-whipped weekend such as this.
Here we have Adam and Eve languishing lusciously in the Garden of Eden. There’s not a scrap of the shame we might expect in a time of Temptation and imminent Fall: instead the artist focusses on fine corporeal casting and introduces a warming under-layer of physical desire. This intimate interpretation, in which Eve has nibbled and twists to her man for him to do the same (see Adam’s total state of hypnosis) was brand new when Goltzius brought it in 1616.
Dutchman Hendrik Goltzius (1558 – 1617) had been successful as a draftsman and printmaker before he turned to painting around 1600. Here, the anatomies attest to the attention he paid to Peter Paul Rubens and others like him: the bare bodies shimmer with the cleanliness of classical statues but are also made opulent and palpable with sensual shading and form.
Look outside the naughty niche nooky for some creatures and critters that have been dotted about for our edification and salvation. The sweet face of the serpent confirms the deceptiveness of appearances and those two goats are signs of lack of chastity. The elephant way off in the distance stands for piety and temperance, so here’s he’s trumpeting as a contrast to Adam’s fetish for flesh and unfaithfulness towards God.
And what about that fat tabby cat planted so purposefully near the picture plane? As his little almond eyes return our gaze it’s as if he’s warning us to turn away from what we should rightfully condemn, lest we lose ourselves to lust and loosened morals. I say just pull on a pair of thermals Eve, those will quell any fires, quick as a flash.