Arts, Culture & Media

When small was big

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A terracotta Panathenaic prize from 530 B.C.

A terracotta Panathenaic prize from 530 B.C.

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Public domain, courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

“The interesting thing about a penis in Greek art is not that some of them are small,” says Andrew Lear, a classics professor and art history tour guide, “but that they are all on the small side.”

Andrew Lear and Kurt Andersen look at a marble statue of a youthful Hercules from 69-96 A.D.

Andrew Lear and Kurt Andersen look at a marble statue of a youthful Hercules from 69-96 A.D.

Credit:

Studio 360

It turns out, size did matter to the ancient Greeks, and smaller was better.

Bronze diskos thrower, 480-460 B.C.

Bronze diskos thrower, 480-460 B.C. 

Andrew Lear takes Kurt Andersen on a tour through the Metropolitan Museum of Art to check out penises in ancient art — from the normal size to the teensy — to find out what size had to do with ancient notions of masculinity.

Andrew Lear, Kurt Andersen and Studio 360 producer Tommy Bazarian check out examples of penises in classical art that were large —on satyrs: mythical half-goat, half-man creatures.

Andrew Lear, Kurt Andersen and Studio 360 producer Tommy Bazarian check out examples of penises in classical art that were large —on satyrs: mythical half-goat, half-man creatures.

Credit:

Studio 360

“It’s all symbolic,” Lear says.

A terracotta mixing bowl from 480 B.C. with a picture of a satyr painted on it.

A terracotta mixing bowl from 480 B.C. with a picture of a satyr painted on it.

Credit:

Studio 360

Coincidentally, just downtown from the Met is another symbolic artistic look at masculinity. On view at the New Museum is “Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel” — a massive retrospective on the British artist whose work has always played with sexual references, bawdy humor, and, well ...

“Oh, there are many, many penises in this show,” says Margot Norton, one of the curators of the exhibit.

 

Sarah Lucas, Au Naturel

Sarah Lucas, "Au Naturel," 1994. Mattress, melons, oranges, cucumber, and water bucket, 33 1/8 x 66 1/8 x 57 in (84 x 168.8 x 144.8 cm).

Credit:

Sarah Lucas/Courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ, London

In Sarah Lucas’ art world, it’s men who are on display. Actually, not so much men, but depictions of manhood, abstract and otherwise — a cucumber stuck into a mattress here, a couple of crumpled beer cans there, as well as two remarkable and monumental sculptures on the museum’s top floor. It’s a different and very contemporary take on masculinity.

 

Sarah Lucas, Eros

People look at Sarah Lucas’ sculpture “Eros” (2013) on the top floor of the New Museum.

Credit:

Studio 360

The New Museum exhibition “Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel” is on view through January 20, 2019.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s massive collection of art from antiquity is on permanent display. Find out more about Andrew Lear's art history tours at Oscar Wilde Tours.

Check out the article from Artsy that first piqued our interest in this story.

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