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Martha Rebuking Mary For Her Vanity And Cindy Sherman’s

Some people may believe that artwork is strictly just religious or just for entertainment in function due to the common subject matter. Martha Rebuking Mary for her Vanity by Guido Cagnacci (1601-1663) and Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills Series (1970s) have hidden meanings. These meanings allude to how people should act and should be portrayed. Religious leaders often used artwork to convey a message to their people to only believe in God, so in essence the former painting has advertising in it, while in the case of Cindy Sherman she is conveying a message to the film industry regarding how they should act toward women.

The formal composition and the subject matter add to the meaning of Cagnacci’s work. The whole scene is very chaotic and full of dynamism. This is shown by the caught-in-action moment with Virtue and Vice. The angel, Virtue, is caught swinging a stick, his back curved to the right. Vice is caught in mid-action, running away. His facial expression conveys a pusillanimous attitude and yet also it conveys mischief. The placing of Virtue and Vice also conveys a message that people need to let go of their extra possessions and stop being materialistic.

It conveys the message of letting out devilish acts. Virtue is chasing out Vice, which may have the symbolism of Mary’s evil ways being taken out of the picture. Mary Magdalene is in the bottom center of the painting, semi-naked. She is portrayed naked rather than nude and the nakedness represents her shameful persona. Being nude represents class whereas being naked represents shame. Mary’s facial expression conveys such sorrow and regret. Also, Mary’s lavish and extravagant possessions are scattered all around her.

The image conveys the message that extra unnecessary possessions should be left behind. Mary is slightly covered with a silky, lightweight wrap. Martha is dressed in everyday clothing, which appears to look raggedy, yet it also looks formal. This could also build the idea that human beings only need things that are absolutely necessary. Martha’s facial expression conveys anger and frustration. Martha is placed to the right of Mary. Martha is leaning forward and her back is slightly curved.

She has her index finger pointing in the direction of Vice to convey the message that Mary’s deeds are devilish. Martha is passionately working to persuade her sister to discard the life of pleasure she has been leading up until then and turn to the life of virtue as a true follower of Jesus Christ and God. The last two characters in this painting are the housemaids who are placed in the upper right of the painting. The maid farthest from the viewer has a facial expression of annoyance. She is also caught in the action of turning away from Mary being rebuked.

The other housemaid, who is gesturing in annoyance, represents vanity. She represents the bad side of Mary. The housemaid closest to the viewers is portrayed as crying. Her facial expression is obviously distressed. The housemaid in tears represents the idea of contrition. She represents the good side of Mary. The cast away of Mary’s clothes and jewels suggests her change of heart towards vanity. Therefore, the subject matter helps build up the didactic meaning of letting go of materialistic ways. The point of view in this painting is to only follow God’s way and love only God.

Cindy Sherman’s subject matter and formal composition alludes to hidden meanings as well. She conveys a multitude of traditional female cinematic roles such as the lover, housewife, beaten wife, or characters being melodramatic. She is commenting how the film industry has contributed to the stereotypes of women. Untitled Film Still Number Three from 1977 shows a stereotypical viewpoint of a domestic housewife played in movies. The panhandle pointing to her breasts shows how women are viewed as objects of desire.

She is in a kitchen, which is an obvious stereotypical placement of women. Untitled Film Still Number Fourteen portrays a mistress, another stereotypical viewpoint of women in movies. Towards the back, in the small frame, is a different woman, the wife of the cheater. The woman being portrayed in the still is not directly looking at the viewer, but is also trying to seduce the viewer. In Untitled Film Still Number Thirty is a woman who has fear in her eyes. She is stunned and shocked. This still shows another viewpoint of how the stereotypical beat up woman is portrayed in movies.

The still also brings a slight unease in the viewer because she looks at us, possibly meaning that we are the cause of dehumanizing women. In the movie industry women are sexualized and formed into an unrealistic standard in order to be seen as beautiful and perfect as women are expected to be viewed in movies. The film industry makes women into objects. Cindy Sherman does not stand for them at all. The message she is trying to convey in her Film Still Series is to put a stop to the objectification of women.

She used her film stills to convey the message to stop supporting bad movie companies that objectify women. Lastly, artwork for centuries have been using this type of advertisement. All forms of artwork, whether it was from the Paleolithic era all the way to contemporary times, have had hidden agendas. The artwork has been catered to specific audiences at their respective time era. The intended audience of Cagnacci’s work was for all the people who strayed away from God. At that time people were driven towards money.

Cagnacci’s focus was to scare people into thinking that they would go to hell if they kept having materialistic ways. For Cindy Sherman’s work, the intended audience was movie viewers and moviemakers. She wanted people stop making movies that objectified women. She also wanted people to stop supporting movies that do so. Artists all have hidden agendas no matter what. To sum it all up, the formal composition and subject matter in Martha Rebuking Mary for her Vanity by Guido Cagnacci help convey the didactic meaning of surrendering one’s materialistic ways.

In the case of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Still Series, subject matter and formal composition also allude to the meaning of the objectification of women. These pieces of art may be from different eras, but the intended agendas behind these pieces of art are similar. The agenda is to make people change their way of thinking. In essence, a little of bit brainwashing goes into these pieces of art. I feel like these pieces of art did open my mind quite a bit. I believe the agendas are highly influential.

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