ὅ παῖς καλός? Certainly, but who dressed you Richard Armitage??

I was quietly watching the happenings in Armitageworld over the weekend as I began my (annual) frantic preparations for the beginning of the academic year.  I couldn’t help but notice the Ben Rayner images that have popped up all over the place.  My immediate reaction?   Good Lord – that sweater!

I'm not putting words in his head but... Photo by Ben Trayner courtesy of www.richardarmitagenet.com

I’m not putting words in his head but…
Photo by Ben Rayner courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

This LV abomination has replaced my previous least favorite Richard Armitage sweater look….

The bulky, cable knit SHORT sleeved sweater?? Photo by Paula Parrish for Fault Magazine courtesy of www.richardarmitagenet.com

The bulky, cable knit SHORT sleeved sweater??
Photo by Paula Parrish for Fault Magazine courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Fashion, like art, is a subjective thing I think.  I’m certainly not a fashionista – I’d describe my personal style as something like academic chic or maybe contemporary librarian?  Seriously, I have no idea what I’d call it…today I’m wearing a fitted blue tee with gray capri pants and sandals – fine – Birkenstock sandals!  Probably my edgiest fashion statement is 4 piercings in one ear 🙂  (I mostly did that to annoy my mother when I was in college!)

Even though I don’t tend to buy “fashion forward” I know what I like when I see it.  Do I really need to describe what about this sweater I don’t like?  It would be easier to identify what I do like…the color is OK.  I ran this ensemble past my local contact for fashion forward menswear (he’s a 20 something musician  studying at a prestigious local university for the arts, and we’ve had several conversations about the dearth of such attire here in the land of Levis and baseball caps) and he’s not a fan of the look either.

I’m not sure what was going through the mind of whoever put this all together, since none of it is particularly flattering on Mr. Armitage – if the goal was to make him look less attractive than usual, well done I guess.

It’s not as if LV only makes ugly (there, I said it…it may be warm, but IMHO, it’s ugly.) sweaters.  Look at John Hamm in this LV cardi:

Richard Armitage would look awesome in that sweater!   Source:  Details Magazine - October 5, 2010

Richard Armitage would look awesome in that sweater!
Source: Details Magazine – October 5, 2010

I suppose I’ll be grateful that they didn’t break out some of the LV Winter 2012/13 runway looks I saw for the Rayner shoot.  Thankfully, I only need one image to remind me how good Richard Armitage can look in a sweater…

Won’t you be my neighbor…please?!
Photo by George Pimentel/Wirelmage for Roots Canada Photo Shoot
Image can be viewed at Getty Images by searching Richard Armitage

ὅ παῖς καλός!!

Sing to me, O Muse! : Richard Armitage and InspiRAtion

For those who don’t know, I live in Wisconsin.  In addition to a reputation for cheese and beer, Wisconsin is a state prone to wild swings in weather.  Subzero temperatures and snow falling by the foot in the winter, extreme heat and humidity in the summer.

This never seems to get old to me...

This never seems to get old to me…

Today is one of those “dog days of summer” that makes me remember the icy winds of January fondly – there’s no pleasing some people is there?  To make things even better, the A/C is out in my car, and now the passenger window had decided not to open.  Suffice it to say that today’s fifty minute commute in 90+ degree heat left me feeling more than a little wilted.  I arrived at my office in need of some serious inspiration!

I walked into the office and this is what I see:

Making special note of circled area...

Magnetic wall in my office:  make special note of circled area…

Ahhh,  I’m feeling better already!  I love the 1st birthday cake pic of my daughter and the collage of Greece, but Richard Armitage seems to act as some sort of balm for me from time to time.  Suddenly, I was feeling inspired, so I mapped out another section of Recovery.

When it comes to inspiRAtion for me (and a whole lot of others in the fandom from the looks of it) Richard Armitage certainly functions as a personal Muse.  The Greek Muses were a collection of goddesses who functioned as the personification and “patron” divinities of arts, literature and science.  The earliest references name three, but by the classical period their number was firmly set at nine.  They are most often identified as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the personification of memory).  The Greeks believed that The Muses epitomized the arts and inspired creativity through their own artistic and literary works.  By the later Hellenistic period, each Muse became associated with a particular genre of creativity and could be identified visually by an emblem or attribute.

muses table

Even earlier than this it became customary for writers to call upon the Muses for inspiration at the beginning of a literary work.  Below are the first lines of three famous poems:

muse quotes

Homer is “writing” very early in the Greek literary tradition, so it is in no way surprising that he does not refer to a particular Muse by name (in this case Calliope, since The Iliad and The Odyssey are epic poems), but simply refers to her as “Goddess” or “Muse”.  The Latin poet Vergil, writing in the 1st century BC, would have been well aware that Calliope was the Muse specific to epic poetry, but rather than name her, he also simply invokes the “Muse”.  This is almost certainly a deliberate homage to Homer.  Regardless, this tradition of calling upon a Muse for inspiration was one started by the Greeks that is still in use today.

I think it might be rather difficult to associate Richard Armitage with a specific area of inspiration…he seems to inspire many different people in a variety of different ways.  Some are inspired to create original artworks based on him or one of the characters he brought to life, others write stories or poems while still others create fan vids or write and record original songs.  Everytime I think I’ve seen it all, something new emerges.

One thing though seems to be timeless… “Sing to me O Muse, a song of…..SQUEEEE!!”

Look...even the interviewer is doing it!!  Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Look…even the interviewer is doing it!!
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Given his immense and, seemingly, effortless ability to inspire, perhaps we really should inaugurate a new Muse:

Armitage bumps out Sappho as the 10th Muse... Source:  Wikimedia with a little help from richardarmitagenet.com

Armitage bumps out Sappho as the 10th Muse…
Source: Wikimedia with a little help from richardarmitagenet.com

ὅ παῖς καλός – Chin up Richard Armitage…

A quick perusal through a gallery of images will confirm that Richard Armitage has perfected his version of a chin down, eyes down partial to full profile look, especially for fashion/artistic style shoots, to great effect.  I had the one below (Keith Clouston, 2011) in mind when I was walking through the Met earlier this year.

Keith Clouston for Recognize Magazine - June 2011 Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Keith Clouston for Recognize Magazine – June 2011
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Most recently, another from the plethora of images shot by Robert Ascroft in December 2012 displays a similar look in a 3/4 body pose.

I'm not looking at you.... Robert Ascroft - December 2012 Source:  richardarmitagenet.com

I’m not looking at you….
Robert Ascroft – December 2012
Source: richardarmitagenet.com

These images and this pose have struck a chord with me from day one, and I finally figured out why.  In part, I like them purely because I’m fascinated by the angular lines of his face that are set off so beautifully in profile, but also because of the quiet, contemplative tone of such images.  There is a certain serenity, but perhaps a bit of sadness.  This pose, and how Richard Armitage inhabits it reminded me distinctly of several images from Greek art…

Greek art, especially sculpture and vase painting is full of scenes of men engaged in action – athletics and warfare especially.  It is much less common to see men purely at rest, unless it is in a scene of banqueting, but those scenes don’t really convey the same sort of stillness and introspection of the images above.  For classical Greek men it seems, stillness and contemplation was reserved for situations when death was prominent.

Grave Stele from Brauron Museum of Fine Arts - Boston

Grave Stele from Brauron
Museum of Fine Arts – Boston

Above is a funeral scene where a young man in a similar pose…body relaxed, chin down, eyes down as he looks to the ground contemplating his life.  This is the figure of the deceased depicted on the stone, or stele that would have marked his burial.  This pose is quite common for funerary art…the figure of the deceased avoids eye contact with the living – a sculptural indication that he’s no longer of this world, but belongs to the Underworld.

Below, we see Odysseus in a scene from his trip to the Underworld (Odyssey, XI) in which he is conversing with the shade of his recently deceased comrade Elpenor.  Odysseus, though still alive, exhibits the same pose of quiet contemplation at he listens to Elpenor’s story. (One other place this pose frequently appears is in scenes where warriors are preparing for battle…ie, where death is a distinct possibility.)   These scenes are poignant, emotionally evocative, beautiful in their way.

Scene from Homer's Odyssey - Odysseus visits the shade of Elpenor in the Underworld Source:  Museum of Fine Arts - Boston

Scene from Homer’s Odyssey – Odysseus visits the shade of Elpenor in the Underworld
Source: Museum of Fine Arts – Boston

 Clearly, similar images of Richard Armitage are not meant to convey any notion of funerary sadness, but they do have the power to evoke strong emotional responses…I don’t think it’s accidental that photographers consistently capture this look, it’s a good one for him… ὅ παῖς καλός!

I'm still not looking at you....but you're looking at me aren't you?? Robert Ascroft - December 2012 Source:  richardarmitagenet.com

I’m still not looking at you….but you’re looking at me aren’t you??
Robert Ascroft – December 2012
Source: richardarmitagenet.com

(Incidentally, at the risk of displaying my complete ignorance of men’s fashion…are those sans-a-belt trousers?  🙂 )

Richard Armitage and the classical canon of sculptuRAl proportions

I’ve been hemming and hawing about this post for about a month now, fiddling around with the drawings, checking, double checking, but I finally finished it today while I should have been doing other things…funny how that works in Armitageworld isn’t it?  Before you read further, remember what I said here about my thoughts on artistic nudity:  Enter at your own risk 🙂

The classical Greeks were very interested in proportion and formulas for creating it.  This desire to “regularize” is especially prominent in architecture and sculpture, and it reflects a lot of information about what the Greeks found visually appealing, their visual aesthetic.  If we had only sculptures to go by, we would have to assume that the population of ancient Greece was a median age of about 23 and in peak physical condition. That was certainly not the case.  Classical sculpture was not trying to replicate reality, but rather to create an ideal, portraying perfected people.

In order to do this, classical sculptors developed complicated formulas of proportions, canons, that divided the body into component parts, each pieces of the whole, proportionately and symmetrically connected to one another.  The idea was that if the sculptor followed the proportional model, no matter what the scale (size) of the sculpture was, it would fit the ideal of what the Greeks found visually appealing.    There are basically two competing canons of proportion:  the original, developed by Polykleitos in the 5th and early 4th centuries BC and then another developed later in the 4th century by Lysippos.  Looking at the image below, we can see the differences in proportion between each sculpture.  The Doryphoros (Spear Bearer) on the left is thought to represent the canon of Polykleitos.  On the right, the Apoxymenos (The Scraper) represents the same for Lysippos.

Comapring the Canons of Polykleitos and Lysippos  (https://sites.google.com/site/pistasdeplastica/3o-eso/canon)

Comapring the Canons of Polykleitos and Lysippos (https://sites.google.com/site/pistasdeplastica/3o-eso/canon)

In detail, the formulas are extremely complex, extending all the way to the length of the digits in proportion to the size of the hand, but in terms of the overall height and basic proportion of the body as a whole, the formula is relatively simple…for Polykleitos, the head is 1/7 the the overall height of the body, for Lysippos, 1/8.  The result is clear…the Polykleitan ideal is compact and solid, the Lysippan rather longer and leaner.  Since I have a rather pronounced interest in all things Richard Armitage, I wondered how he measures up to the classical ideal. Before I go further I should point out that I can only come to very general conclusions for a couple of reasons.  First, since I’m working from photographs, and photographs of a fully clothed Richard Armitage at that, I have to guess-ti-mate A LOT.  And, more importantly, what we know about the details of either canon is compromised by a lack of preservation of the original materials.

When it comes to much of classical Greek sculpture, there are really two broad categories:  Lost Original and Roman Copy, which are actually two sides of the same coin.  Both Polykleitos and Lysippos were prolific sculptors, but very little of the original work of either artist has survived.  Except for a few notable examples, the greatest number of “Greek” sculptures that survive are actually Roman copies of a lost original work.  The Romans were competant copyists, but there is a strong probablity that some (many)  elements of the originals were “lost in translation.”  Even so, we can still take a look at a basic proportional comparison.

The image below shows a full length shot copied onto graph paper, on which I can make out (or at least fudge) some critical measurement points.  The place we have to start is measuring the head to set up the unit of measure.  From the hairline to the jaw, the head measures 5  blocks on the graph paper – this is the basic unit of measure to divide the body parts.  The solid lines indicate the canonical divisions:  1/7 divisions as determined by Polykleitos (left), 1/8 by Lysippos (right).  The dashed lines represent where those divisional lines should fall if the body fits into the canons.  Looking at even this very provisional scheme, I came away with a couple of conclusions:

canon

Click to enlarge for details…such as they are
(we’re working on a shoestring budget here!)
Original Photo Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

1.  Richard Armitage, by classical standards, has a disproportionately large head.   (big head, big brain right 🙂 ). This actually seems to be a desirable trait for film actors since larger heads photograph better.   Unlike many of his colleagues, Mr. Armitage also has a body size that is proportionate to his head…hurray, no bobble head look here!

2.  That head factor skews the other measurements a bit.

3.  All is not lost.

It is clear to me from my extremely “scientific” analysis, that if we make a correction for the size of the head, Richard Armitage fits better into the Lysippan canon than the Polykleitan since he is generally longer and leaner in proportion.  Even so, there is a fair amount of difference.  As a test, I used this same canon system on Daniel Craig, who exhibits rather more traditional male proportions.  He conformed more to canon, but still not perfectly.

Doryphoros/Thutmose III/Apoxymenos Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Doryphoros/Thutmose III/Apoxymenos
Source: Wikimedia Commons

What becomes evident is that these proportions do not correspond to actual humans, but rather to a mathematical ideal of what the Greeks found pleasing to the eye.  Although the Doryphoros and the Apoxymenos appear much more realistic than say, a typical example of Egyptian sculpture (in the image above, the Egyptian piece is clearly meant to represent a human form, but it is much more stiff and stylized than either of the Greek works.) they are not really representative of an actual human body.

As a whole, we have not changed very much over the 2500 years since these canons were conceived in terms of the desire for idealized forms.   Our eyes are constantly being tricked into believing that the human forms we see in the media are perfect.  What we find if we look closer however,  is that they are not perfect, but instead have been “perfected.”  Many people argue that this trend toward over manipulating images has produced a warped notion of an ideal body for generations of people, particularly women.    While it is unlikely that any professional images shot of Richard Armitage reach the public eye completely UN-retouched, I gather from various conversations that the general consensus is that he requires little or no retouching.  I tend to agree – the great attraction of Richard Armitage to me is the sum of “imperfections” that result in a beautiful, REAL man.

Oh, I almost forgot…on one front (or back I guess) Richard Armitage has a lot in common with Greek sculpture….

One of these things is not quite the same...

One of these things is not quite the same…

With the exception of not having a tree trunk sticking out of the back of his leg, he could be a butt/bum model for classical male nudes!   (Thanks to my enabler Servetus for the screen cap from Spooks S8.4)

et alia: So you want to write RAcy fan fiction? Caveat scriptor or “Don’t try this at home!”

Pompeii writer

As a fiction reader, I have always been drawn to authors who pay attention to details.  One of those details is plausibility of situations.  Obviously, the range of what is believable varies by genre.  Science and fantasy fiction push the boundaries of believability deliberately, challenging people to open their minds to new possibilities.  In more straight forward contemporary fiction, and especially historical fiction, it seems to me that at least basic plausibility is necessary.  If I can’t understand why a character would do something or if I can’t believe that the action is even possible, I generally lose interest in the story.  “Death is in the details…”

Since they inhabit the same general corner of my brain, my reading preferences were close by when I began writing.  Over the years, I’ve probably read more than my fair share of erotic fiction.  Looking back, I realize now that the bulk of what I’ve read falls into the “Romance Novel” category, with fairly euphemistic descriptions of sex.  I did take a foray into BDSM fiction in college.  I was a huge fan of Anne Rice at the time, reading everything of hers I could get my hands on including the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy written under the pseudonym of A. N. Roquelaure.  At that point in life, I was aghast, titillated, but aghast.  I’ve since learned that what was so shocking to me at 21 is pretty vanilla in comparison to the variety of erotica that is out there.  Erotica is a rapidly growing literary genre today – the enormous mainstream popularity of the Fifty Shades series illustrates how far it has come.

But I digress…I was talking about basic veracity in fiction writing wasn’t I?  When I started to read RAcy fan fiction, I often found myself wondering if particularly acrobatic positions were humanly possibly without double joints and a spotter.  (I’ve long wondered the same thing about some of the positions in the Kama Sutra.)  When I started writing my own stories I decided that in addition to believable basic elements of the story, I’d like to know if the intimate positions I was about to put my characters into were actually possible.  Enter the caveat scriptor:

Some of you may remember me complaining about an injured knee a few months ago.  The official story, the one I told my doctor and everyone else with the exception of my RA (Research Assistant that is – that’s my husband for writing research purposes 🙂 ) and my BFF, was that I slipped on some ice in my driveway.  I did slip on some ice, but that only aggravated an already injured joint.  The real story was that I was testing out a prospective “storytelling device” and sprained my knee.  The moral of my story is that before you try to test out “veracity” of this variety, make sure you stretch!

PS…I determined that this “device” was imminently believable for my characters since they are in much better physical condition than me 😀

PPS…if you’re considering a foray into erotic writing of your own, you may find Cosmopolitan magazine’s take on the Kama Sutra:  The Cosmo Sutra, quite useful!