Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hitler and the nude dude

BBC - Culture - The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the body beautiful

Hey, I didn't know that Hitler liked the old Greek discus thrower statue so much that he bought it:
Hitler’s opportunity to acquire the statue arose in the 1930s, when the Lancellotti family fell upon hard times and offered it for sale. At first the sculpture was earmarked for the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but the original asking price of eight million lire was deemed too high. By 1937, Hitler had made known his interest in the statue, and
the following year, despite initial misgivings on the part of the Italian authorities about exporting it, the Discobolus was sold to him for the still huge sum of five million lire. Funded by the German government, this was delivered in cash to representatives of the Lancellotti family in their palazzo.

By the end of June 1938, the Discobolus had arrived in Germany where it was displayed not in Berlin but in the Glyptothek museum in Munich. On 9 July it was officially presented as a gift to the German people. Hitler addressed the crowds: “May none of you fail to visit the Glyptothek, for there you will see how splendid man used to be in the beauty of his body… and you will
realise that we can speak of progress only when we have not only attained such beauty but even, if possible, when we have surpassed it.”
Some more interesting reading about the popularity of a Nazi era coffee table book of nude photos of the body beautiful is to be found here.

As for the exhibition which inspired the BBC link  about Hitler and the statue, there is a more detailed article about it at The Guardian, including some odd bits such as: 
The Greeks could see their nudity was a bit odd, and wondered how it came about. One theory was that an early competitor at the Olympics had accidentally or deliberately lost his loincloth and went on to win the 200m sprint, thanks to some aerodynamic advantage. Not to be outdone, the other competitors copied him. More likely it has something to do
with primitive rituals of “stripping off” one’s childhood cloak and “running out” into the ranks of citizens at the age of 20, practices still going on in Sparta and Crete in the historical period.

In Athens, meanwhile, on Athena’s birthday at the hottest time of year, each graduating year of ephebes would streak all the way from the altar of Love in the gymnasium called “the Academy” to the Acropolis carrying torches, the laggards and the podgier ones getting slaps from the crowds as they huffed and puffed through the main city gate.

Nudity was a kind of costume, an idea enhanced by the fact that much time seems to have been spent oiling oneself up and scraping oneself down. The best condiment for the body was that olive oil produced from the sacred olive trees given to Athens by Athena and awarded as prizes
in the games that accompanied her birthday. The resulting salty “boy gloop” or paidikos gloios was sometimes collected and used to treat ailments and signs of ageing.
Erk.  The article gets a bit more sordid after that...

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