There’s a time and place for artwork historians to deliver their experience to bear on modern points — like when TikToker and artwork historian Mary McGillivray mapped angles and visible geometry to debunk the Eurovision cocaine controversy. And there may be additionally a time and place through which tying all the things, nonetheless weakly, to Western artwork historical past is a little bit of a stretch — and that point and place could also be right here and now, because the Web makes an attempt to attract a comparability between the quilt picture of Beyoncé’s new album, Renaissance, and John Collier’s circa 1898 portray “Girl Godiva.”
In all equity, the unconventional spirit and ethical power channeled by Girl Godiva resonate with the lyrics of Beyoncé’s single launched upfront of the album, “Break My Soul.” Based on the legendary story, the Eleventh-century gentlewoman rode bare by way of the Coventry market on a guess together with her husband, who mentioned if she did so, he would cut back an oppressive tax on their individuals. In Beyoncé’s music, interpreted by some as an anti-capitalist anthem, the musician belts out, “And I simply stop my job / I’m gonna discover new drive / Rattling, they work me so rattling onerous / Work by 9, then off previous 5” earlier than repeating the refrain: “You received’t break my soul.”
However Collier’s specific interpretation of the legend has no resemblance to the newly unveiled album cowl. The bearing of Girl Godiva in Collier’s portray is downcast and self-conscious, having nothing in widespread with Beyoncé’s calm, confident, direct-to-camera stare. She appears frankly unconcerned about all the things, as much as and together with your taxes.
You can say the photographs are visually comparable, within the sense that they each function a reasonably bare girl on a horse. However even a cursory Web seek for “girl bare on a horse” reveals that Collier’s paintings shouldn’t be the one and even the most effective referent for the picture. The truth is, Carlijn Jacobs — the photographer who shot the quilt artwork for Beyoncé — has invoked the trope earlier than. And others have pointed to Bianca Jagger’s memorable entrance on horseback to Studio 54 in 1977.
And one Twitter consumer additionally noticed that it’s not unusual for Beyoncé to look using horses in images and movies, a theme they described as an invocation of her Texan roots.
Since “Girl Godiva” shouldn’t be a Renaissance portray, there may be not even a tenuous connection to be made to the title of Beyoncé’s album, Renaissance — and given Beyoncé’s express dedication to Black feminism, a extra convincing reference could be the Harlem Renaissance, anyway. That didn’t cease some individuals from persevering with to liken it to a factor a Western White painter did 100 years in the past — and it additionally didn’t cease different individuals on Twitter from mocking them for it.
So far as what Queen Bey has to say on the matter, the Instagram put up presenting the quilt as a teaser for the July 29 album drop says, “My intention was to create a protected place, a spot with out judgment. A spot to be freed from perfectionism and overthinking. A spot to scream, launch, really feel freedom.”
The actual ethical right here is that not all the things is about Western artwork — as takes on the connection between imagery in Beyoncé’s 2016 visible album Lemonade and African artwork makes clear. And in terms of Beyoncé, it’s reductionist to look to a slender artwork historic canon.