At the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, the “Arts and prehistory” season provides a remarkable overview of the productions (sculpted, engraved or painted objects, parietal art, etc.) of Homo Sapiens from the Paleolithic, from the Aurignacian to the Magdalenian, i.e. approximately between -40,000 and -10,000 BC, and confronts them with modern and contemporary art.
The Musée de l’Homme in Paris brings together, for an unprecedented cultural season, more than 90 original prehistoric pieces (sculpted, engraved or painted objects) and hundreds of digital images of paintings and parietal engravings discovered in the four corners of the planets. Tripartite, the exhibition ” Arts and Prehistory », presented from November 16 to May 22, also brings these multi-millennial creations into dialogue with modern and contemporary art in a hanging tribute to the discovery of the iconic “Venus” by Lespugue in 1922. It will find a new resonance in February 2023 in the exhibition “Picasso and Prehistory”.
Grimaldi’s Brown Venus belongs to a set of thirteen female figurines of various natures discovered at the end of the 19th century in the area of the Balzi Rossi caves (Italo-French coastal border). Small in size and made of steatite, a soft material of Alpine origin, this statuette represents a pregnant woman whose exaggerated forms could impose on hostile forces and protect her from the dangers of childbirth.
Not without a phallic connection, the Venus of Tursac, very stylized, comes from an area close to the Gravettian habitat of the Abri du Facteur in Tursac (Dordogne) and presents a rare squatting position. As with most of these small Venuses in the round, the question of their private function has arisen since their assimilation to a sort of universal “mother goddess” has been abandoned.
Found in Spain, this stylized Venus of El Pendo, obtained from an antler transformed into a utilitarian perforated stick, could illustrate a new type of male-female relationship freed from the exaltation of the reproductive function. Its “modernity” made Henri Delporte (1920-2002), a famous French prehistorian, doubt its authenticity, which has since been recognised.
The “Mona Lisa” of prehistory
A veritable “Mona Lisa” of prehistory, this Venus, unfortunately damaged during its exhumation in 1922 in Lespugue (Haute-Garonne), is one of the largest known in the round. Although its buxom forms, its ovoid head and the absence of feet link it to the common Gravettian figurations, it continues to arouse debates, in particular concerning its possible reading in both directions.
First human figuration recognized as prehistoric when discovered in 1863-64 in Laugerie-Basse (Dordogne), the Venus of Laugerie-Basse, headless and armless, like many schematic female figurations of the Magdalenian focused on the main female physical characters , offers a sexual anatomical precision as well as a youthful thinness that show her at the beginning of fertility.
Found with five other bas-reliefs in the shelter of Laussel (Dordogne), in the heart of a region full of prehistoric works, this Venus was detached from its wall after its discovery in 1911. Holding an incised bison horn of 13 streaks put in relation, by some, with the menstrual cycle, it must, by its size and its traces of red ocher, attract the attention, reserved or not for a particular public.
Recently unearthed in Poland, this figure with a schematization specific to the Magdalenian period serves as a reminder that, although symbolic thought preceded artistic ability, there is, in art, no route traced from abstraction to realism. Despite all the hypotheses formulated, the artistic productions of the Upper Palaeolithic should forever retain a part of mystery, without harming, however, the aesthetic bewitchment they release.
To complete the exhibition with a contemporary section, the Musée de l’Homme has given the floor to male and female artists who have produced works related to prehistoric creations, the revelation of which, from the beginning of the 20th century, strongly influenced Picasso. and so many other artists. Very sensitive to the issues of her sex, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) could not help but be fascinated by the first prehistoric female figures. Outside of any playful approach, his works evoke the community of painful destiny which connects, beyond their will, the beings between them.
“Arts and prehistory”
Museum of human
17 Place du Trocadero, Paris
from November 16 to May 22
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