Whether alone or in company, aware or unaware of being observed, rebellious or ironic, innocent or sensual, figures seen from behind speak a language that enchants us and constitute a constant presence in the history of art.
The first to turn her back on us was the Flora of Stabia in Roman times, a symbolic bridge between the profiles of ancient Egypt and the Italian painting of the 14th century, the period in which subjects seen from behind first appeared. Recurrent presences during the Renaissance but mostly in group scenes, they came to the fore in the 17th century thanks to Flemish painting. And while geishas in Japan have concealed their faces from time immemorial but left their necks exposed as a point of access to carnal intimacy, it was in the 19th century and in the West that the back of the head became a focal point and indeed a pictorial and literary leitmotif on a par with the Rückenfigur, the icon of romantic contemplation. In the 20th century, the world seen from behind offered eccentric and shattering visions and presented a new perspective on art and its viewers.
Eleonora Marangoni’s figures seen from behind are chosen from the spheres of literature and photography, cinema and painting, video art and comic books over the centuries, grouped together by association or presented in iconic isolation. Elucidating their symbolic character and poetic significance, she demonstrates that the power of these images is born out of what they do not say, out of the inexhaustible outpouring of the imagination to which they give rise.