The kiss of love in figurative art

BY BELISARIO RIGHI



George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - Blake Edwards movie from 1961

The kiss has always taken on multiple meanings. It is a practice that men use in the most varied situations. You can kiss to give a welcome or farewell farewell, or you can kiss to show respect, but also betrayal. The most famous kiss in history is that of Judas. Even in business, the kiss is used as a seal of understanding. Then there are the kisses or kisses that are given without particular reasons, but only to communicate a kind of affection or friendship or cordiality. Regardless of the purpose, the kiss is still the best way to express without words what one would like and also what one could not say. It is a kind of tacit assent, with which two souls pour into each other feelings and passions that cannot be confessed in another way. The kiss is the shortcut to saying everything without having to say anything, and it can be the elegant way to interrupt the conversation when words become superfluous. Of the infinite paths that kisses can take, we will go into the more classic, more widely manifested one: the kiss of love, commonly known as the French. The kiss in a love story can celebrate the consecration of its beginning, but it can also mark its end. Art, attentive and diligent narrator of human acts and their spiritual implications, has often been interested in the subject and has given, through the artists, suggestive and admirable interpretations, full of meanings and conceptual assonances.


One of the best known images, portraying a kissing couple, borrowed from painting, is the painting: The Kiss by Francesco Hayez. The two lovers exchange a deep and sensual kiss which, considering the young age of the protagonists and the passion with which they embrace, denotes a sentimental correspondence that seems to herald a long falling in love, a promise of eternal love.

The Kiss - painting by Francesco Hayez - 1859



Amos Cassioli's interpretation is different, portraying the love story of Paolo and Francesca within the walls of the castle of Gradara, inspired by the Divine Comedy. Paolo kisses Francesca enthusiastically, who instead seems to passively accept the demonstration of love and not because she does not love her partner with the same intensity with which she is loved, but perhaps because she foreshadows the misfortune that will fall upon them. The kiss in this case is a harbinger of sad events and in its tenderness it hides a dramatic reality that takes away its ardor and obscures its sensuality.

Paolo and Francesca - Painting by Amos Cassioli - 1870 The same theme of Dante's lovers was treated by August Rodin, but here the artist, adopting a scenographic setting and classic stylistic features, created a work full of eroticism, portraying Francesca passionate and enterprising lover. The proximity of the two completely naked bodies, the positioning of the man's hand on the woman's side, touching her roundness and the sensual and voluptuous embrace of Francesca, insinuate lustful feelings in the observer and the kiss is nothing more than the definition of the sexual act that is about to take place.

The kiss - Sculpture by Auguste Rodin - 1889

Even more thrust, in its iconography is the representation that Constantin Brancusi offers us, with his stupendous sculpture. Here the two bodies unite not only on the mouth, but entirely in an enveloping embrace, to the point of merging the two figures into a single entity depicting a phallus, synonymous with virility and therefore with a man who, according to classical hermeneutics, is the compendium of man and woman in a single whole.

The kiss - Sculpture by Constantin Brancusi - 1907-1980

With Gustav Klimt, we are on another level of interpretation. Here the act is sublimated by the tenderness and modesty of the woman who accepts the man's advance with measured dedication and with an expressive sweetness that takes us back to now forgotten worlds. The gold background mottled with embroidery and flowers transports us to a dimension belonging to the past, where purity of feelings and intellectual clarity were the real protagonists of human actions. Note the delicacy with which the man's hands envelop the beloved. The woman, on the other hand, while her left hand barely touches her lover, with her right surrounds him, without opening it completely for a total embrace, as if she is afraid to give herself entirely and still wants to maintain a bond with her virginity.

The kiss - Painting by Gustav Klimt - 1970-1908 Franz von Stuck, expressionist painter, mainly symbolist, with this canvas, reiterates his obsession with sin and its supernatural monsters. A kiss is represented between a sphinx and a man who, subject to the charm of the monstrous creature, abandons himself to the kiss, perhaps inspired more by eternal damnation than by the heavenly world that love should open up. The colors with dense tones give the whole an accent of infernal drama that enriches the concept of perversion.

The kiss of the sphinx - Painting by Franz von Stuck - 1895 Edvard Munch, a great expressionist painter, who always impressed the sentimental and spiritual moods of his soul in his canvases, shows us a disturbing image of the kiss. Certainly William Shakespeare could not see this picture, yet at least in a dream it must have appeared to him, because he wrote: "If I had to go to hell to kiss you, I would. So I can then boast to the devils that I have seen heaven without ever entering it" . Munch immersing the lovers, with their faces merged into a shapeless mass, in a dark chromatic magna, which proceeds downwards from the top of the painting, gives us the sensation of being caught in a vortex that will plunge us into a cavern without light where we cannot he will see nothing but darkness.

The Kiss - Painting by Edvard Munch - 1897 Marc Chagall, following his dreamlike and dreamy nature, gives us this magnificent canvas that represents an unshared kiss. The woman, even if she appears about to hover in the air, is in fact planted on the ground and her gaze is awake and does not betray the slightest sign of evanescence. The man, on the other hand, floating in the air and with his eyes closed, seems to be dreaming and living an imaginary reality, the result of amorous ecstasy.

The birthday - Painting by Marc Chagall - 1915 René Magritte takes us into the world of metaphysics and paints a kiss between two people whose faces are covered by a non-diaphanous veil. The man and the woman may not even know each other and the kiss here rises to its most intrinsic and raw nature: the approach of two mouths and nothing else. The fact is released from all its semantic elements. A sentimental correspondence between two people is not celebrated, only an act is recorded which, due to its inability to express itself as it should, is denied. In his famous painting ceci n est pas une pipe, Magritte says that since the painted pipe cannot be smoked, it is not a pipe, because the pipe is such, only if it serves its task, which is to smoke. Thus a kiss that does not allow contact with the lips, which does not allow the faces of those who exchange it to be seen, is not a kiss, the nature of which is to involve mainly on the spiritual level, but is only a mechanical representation of an action.

Lovers - Painting by René Magritte - 1928 And finally the most important kiss, the most meaningful one. The kiss that cannot be given with the mouth, but only with the soul. The soul that can speak with its eyes can also kiss with a look. (Gustavo Adolfo Becquer). Who hasn't seen Michael Curtiz's film: Casablanca? I believe very few and we all know the story. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman love each other with an impossible love, which has no future, which will never be able to express itself, destined not to burn and for this it must be suffocated. So why kiss? Doing so would mean chasing a ghost, clinging to a chimera. It is better to simply say goodbye. A kiss on the mouth would say nothing, while a glance can speak much more.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca" - Michael Curtiz film from 1942 And to conclude: A kiss can ruin a life. (Oscar Wilde).

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