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Sphinxes, witches and little girls: reconsidering the female monster in the art of Leonor Fini

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posted on 26.02.2016, 09:27 by Rachael GrewRachael Grew
As champions of the irrational and the uncanny, the Surrealists frequently incorporated classical monsters into their art as part of their search for a new modern myth. However, these creatures became subject to gender codification, with the sphinx and chimera in particular becoming attached to the imagery surrounding the sexually provocative, castrating femme-fatale. The woman Surrealist Leonor Fini (1907-1996) diverged from the Surrealist norm to create complex and ambiguous monsters, rather than simply expressions of the lethally enticing femme-fatale. Fini uses a range of monsters in her art, from the classical sphinx to creatures of popular culture, such as the witch and the werewolf. These monsters are almost always female, or at the very least androgynous, yet the actions and attitudes they are found in invites a new reading of the destructive female monster and/or the ‘monstrous’ female. Equally, the children and adolescent girls that appear in her work are often depicted in a negative light: they are ugly, unkind and selfish. Through a detailed iconographical analysis, this paper will explore Fini’s use of both traditional and non-traditional monsters as a method of subverting preconceived gender and social codes, ultimately reconsidering the notion of what exactly is monstrous.

History

School

  • The Arts, English and Drama

Department

  • Arts

Published in

Creating Humanity, Discovering Monstrosity: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

Pages

97 - 106

Citation

GREW, R., 2010. Sphinxes, witches and little girls: reconsidering the female monster in the art of Leonor Fini. In: Nelson, E., Priest, H. and Burcar, J. (eds.) Creating Humanity, Discovering Monstrosity: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, pp. 97 - 106.

Publisher

© Inter-Disciplinary Press

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date

2010

Notes

This article appeared in Creating Humanity, Discovering Monstrosity: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil, first published by the Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2010.

ISBN

978-1-904710-95-0

Language

en