Forever entwined

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  • Baucis and Philemon
  • If I were to put together a ‘hidden tour’ of Melbourne, this sculpture would be on it for sure. Tucked away down a narrow city laneway above the door of a very expensive and exclusive venue, is this impressive sculpture. On it’s own the artwork is undoubtedly beautiful, but it also has a great backstory.

    The couple who are entwined together as trees are Baucis and Philemon, “emblems of enduring romance.” Their presence above the outlandishly expensive and fabulously opulent Baroqhouse in Melbourne is somewhat ironic given that according to legend, Baucis and Philemon were once humble servants to weary and needy travellers, whom nobody else would grant shelter. It’s hard to imagine this exclusive venue doing anything for the weary apart from perhaps looking out of the window at them.

    So to continue the legend, when two beneficiaries of Baucis and Philemon’s goodness turned out to be Roman Gods, Jupiter and Mercury disguised in human form, the couple were blessed with prosperous last years and a peaceful shared death, by which they became trees, forever entwined.

    Stand at this location using Google street view.

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  • 2 comments on “Forever entwined

    1. I really don’t like this sculpture. It’s been playing on my mind, but in a worse form, my memory distorting it, so I’m coming back to write about it.
      I think it does carry violent and pornographic undertones and shows very little of the love it’s supposed to depict. If it was plainly called, Baucis and Philemon f*kg, fine.
      But I think by the end of their lives when they turned into trees they most probably would have looked a lot more like a tantric sacred embrace picture, or even an old couple sat on a bench.
      I don’t like this hijacking of a myth of love to turn it into something titillating, because more often than not, the ‘female form’ is objectified as something to possess freely, whilst she can’t do anything about it – like here, her body is offered to the onlooker, but her face and gaze is averted so as not to confront them. Her hands are non-existent, so she can’t do anything. Philemon is a backdrop excuse of a counterpart, meant for the viewer to associate with, offering the promise of unveiling the rest of the body.
      I don’t like that because when you see this kind of image as “art”, with a title referring to “love”, it totally mixes up signals. I can testify, having had to do a lot of work on my own sexuality, that it’s really not healthy for girls to grow up with this kind of sh*te.
      Call it what it is, sex with bondage. Let’s bring up healthy, strong girls who know the difference.

      • I agree with you in so much as I think we do need our young people (not just the girls) to be bought up understanding the difference between love and sex, However, I don’t see the piece in the same way you do. I honestly see two people entwined, it took you mentioning fucking for me to think about them involved in something sexual.

        Yes I did think that the depiction overlooks the fact that they would likely have been a wrinkly old couple, but I don’t think the interpretation is offensive, or at least any more offensive than any such nudity in art.

        In a way I am glad to have shown you art that bought such a strong reaction. I rather feel that any art that can move someone to react is good art. So while I see beauty and love, you see objectification and porn.

        Different, but both valid, and that’s art for you. Subjective and wonderful in that.

        Thanks for the thought provoking comment though.

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