Museum Bums // Iona

I’d like to take you on a virtual tour of our resident bums at MAG; inspired by the snowballing trend on Twitter from @museumbums and their #bigmuseumbumcount campaign.

The Instagram and Twitter accounts of @museumbums feature many highlights from collections across the UK’s Museums and their classical sculptures in particular. So, our examples will bring some more painted posteriors into the mix, which you can find in our permanent displays on the first-floor Victorian galleries.

So, let’s start at the gallery’s front entrance:

Manchester Art Gallery- Main Entrance facing Moseley Street

Manchester Art Gallery- Main Entrance facing Moseley Street

Upon entry to the gallery, you are welcomed by our fantastic Rodin cast sculptures, Age of Bronze to the right and Eve, to the left. The Age of Bronze’s perfectly proportioned figure was modelled on a French soldier and is thought to be Rodin’s interpretation of early man. The figure energetically reaches upwards as he feels the rush of his awakening powers, making for a skilfully carved and very taut bum. This pleasing and uplifted glutes should set the tone for people’s first impressions of MAG….

RIght:  The Age of Bronze  (1878) Rodin           Left:  Eve  (1911) Rodin

RIght: The Age of Bronze (1878) Rodin Left: Eve (1911) Rodin

Eve, on the other hand, is distraught. Can’t you tell from the slouch and anguish of her buttocks? She has just been expelled from the garden of Eden and the regret of sin, such remorse and sorrow is evident, beyond the expressions of her wrapped arms and bowed head.

Moving up to the balcony and turning right on ascent of the stairs, the Greek mythological nymph Calypso is casually reposing on a rock. The nonchalant gesture, curvaceous body and sensuous arrangement of the drapes titillate the viewer’s eyes around to Calypso’s posterior. James Herbert Draper depicts Calypso’s sexual prowess as she rules over her island, awaiting her next shipwrecked victim. Proving here that even the purest looking bottoms are to be feared….

Calypso’s Isle  (1897) James Herbert Draper

Calypso’s Isle (1897) James Herbert Draper

Next is another of Draper’s nymphs with a scantily clad bum and her pearly white skin which contrasts to the entangled kelp alluringly caught around her. With a wreathed rear, she is clearly at one with nature, which Draper presents here as an obvious Victorian trinity of femininity, nature and new life.

A Water Baby  (1900) Herbert James Draper

A Water Baby (1900) Herbert James Draper

As we continue around the balcony, the next bum to be found is in Venus and her Doves by William Etty. Venus is semi-nude but the figure at her feet is not and with no identifying features, her shapely body is our main focus, only noticing later that she is holding onto a tether attached to a flying dove. But what could this say about the bum? In Roman mythology, representations of Venus - the Goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory - and her associates alongside doves related to symbols of eroticism. The ancient pagan beliefs of Western Asia use doves to represent love, sexuality and war; in Judaism, they can be seen as a symbol of life; Christianity this is often peace. So, we can conclude that this is one multifaceted bum.

Venus and Her Doves (1836) William Etty

Venus and Her Doves (1836) William Etty

And right next to this painting, on the small plaster frieze of the Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, is a very valiant bum. This depicts a mythological Greek victory, where the Greek civilisation triumphed in combat with the barbaric and uncultured half- man, half- horse Centaurs. This assumes that success will come with infinite muscle mass, superhuman strength and a very animated, brazen bottom

Close up section of  Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs  (1819) Henning Snr, John

Close up section of Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs (1819) Henning Snr, John

You can actually see a much larger figure of this ‘re-enactment’ if you turn around and look up to your right. On the wall, you’ll catch quite a strange angle to view the bum of a cast from the Parthenon Frieze, another heroic Ancient Greek fighting a centaur.

Cast of the Parthenon frieze, Manchester Art Gallery’s Entrance Hall

Cast of the Parthenon frieze, Manchester Art Gallery’s Entrance Hall

A little further along the balcony, you’ll find another casual bum, sleek and musically engaged. This belongs to the key figure of this small scene; the Greek God Dionysus, God of wine, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theatre, and religious ecstasy. He sounds like a lot of fun and the shape of this bum reminds us of his connection with grapes, or indeed male fertility. His general stance suggests he’s had a taste of the grape, with the bum pointing towards a goatskin draped over Dionysus’ shoulder. He was often worshipped in the form of a goat and the impending sacrifice of the goat in front of him is symbolic of consuming the god himself. Bums, consumption and worship, another holy trinity?

Close up section of  Preparations for Sacrifice of Goat  (1778) Wedgwood/ Possibly Hackwood, William.

Close up section of Preparations for Sacrifice of Goat (1778) Wedgwood/ Possibly Hackwood, William.

The next one along is rather outstanding, something I’m shocked I hadn’t noticed before beginning this endeavour. Behold the bum of a classical warrior by Harry Bates:

War  (1887) Harry Bates

War (1887) Harry Bates

This is the bum of a warrior, departing from his family to fight in a war. He is like a classic action man, whose bum doesn’t actually look real. Will the clench of his buttocks be enough to convince us that he is about to triumph in battle? Well, it should!

Hector Lying Dead  (1892) Briton Riviere.

Hector Lying Dead (1892) Briton Riviere.

The balcony tour ends with this sad shot of Hector, whose lifeless body is still slightly pert and attracting a pack of hungry wolves. Hector was a legendary warrior in the Trojan war, killed by Achilles, who has dragged his body to this point. The wolves probably didn’t foresee rump on the menu for their supper...

The gluteus maximus has a lot to answer for, and you don’t get a bum deal at MAG.

Join my next virtual tour which will take you into the Victorian galleries, exploring highlights from our most prominent ‘nude infatuated’ male artists including William Etty; Frederick Richard Pickersgill; Francis Derwent Wood and the juicy Valette, coming soon…