Nestled in the Gabriel-Pierné Square in Paris, there is the Carolina statue created by Marcello Tommasi. This is a bronze statue, created in 1968, showing in detail a naked young girl.
As you look at her, you may feel that she is stood rather awkwardly, her right arm turned at a difficult angle, her developing hips pushed slightly too far to one side and her face struck in an expression of distinct determination.
You may also feel slightly unnerved that this statue, which is looking directly ahead, is clearly an early teenage girl and is showing her developing body so brazenly.
Tommasi was an Italian painter and sculptor who died in 2008. His work echoed that of a bygone age and concentrated on anatomical aestheticism. He has been heralded as the “symbolic heir of fifteenth century Neo-Platonism”, meaning that his work is the embodiment of this particular school of thought.
Neo-Platonism in art, simply put is concerned with beauty being the tool to elevate towards the idea. This was predominant in poetry and music rather than sculpture and painting for a long time, until the Renaissance period which saw artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian adopt the school of thought of beauty coming from the simplicity of unity and the symmetry of parts which come together to create a whole.
If we think of art work from the Renaissance period, it is not unusual to see the naked form, for men or women. Unabashedly displayed, in a confidence, highlighting the understated beauty of the human body.
Let’s take a closer look at “Carolina”. As I have already mentioned, we can see that she appears to be stood awkwardly, in a stance which appears to be beyond her years.
From a different angle, we can see an almost model like pose, the twist of her waist, highlighting the curve of her hips, her buttocks already fleshy, yet her chest underdeveloped. Her hair is pulled back in to a rudimentary pony tail, with lines in the bronze work showing the softness and movement of her hair.
The lines from this angle look less awkward, in fact she looks resolutely feminine in her stance, her body twisted, with her shoulder back to create a soft arch to the body, indicating the womanly form that she will grow in to.
I find her face the most interesting on this sculpture. The expression seems to be determination.
Her eyes are focused on something to the right hand side of her, her lips pursed to show a defined Cupid’s bow. Her head is slightly tilted to show the elegant line of her neck and collar bones.
With all this in mind, what was Tommasi trying to portray with this statue? Was this some sordid fascination with a young girl? I don’t believe so. I don’t see this as an artist’s voyeuristic view of the adolescent body. The girl is not captured in a position where she appears to be unwatched. What I see this as it the capture of development of beauty. I personally wouldn’t say that the girl captured within this piece is a stunner as yet, but we can see that as she grows, she will develop the poise and grace of feminine charm.
She is learning how to hold herself and how to present her features to exhibit herself in the most aesthetic way. This very nicely links to the Neo-Platonism that Tommasi is said to have captured in his work. While her charm and presence is not quite there yet, she will grow and create the beauty through many experiences and trials in her life, creating the unity to make her one.
We don’t very often see the capture of adolescent girls in art, potentially as the development of their bodies requires some defining by the artist as they have the ability to end up looking a little bit like young boys when they are clothed, and the bodies not particularly aesthetically pleasing.
I really love how the inept age of youth is captured within this statue. She is on the cusp of womanhood, and that has been captured for an eternity within this piece.