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    William Etty's Magdalens: sexual desire and spirituality in early Victorian England

    Janes, Dominic (2011) William Etty's Magdalens: sexual desire and spirituality in early Victorian England. Religion and the Arts 15 (3), pp. 277-305. ISSN 1079-9265.

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    William Etty (1787-1849) is widely recognized as one of Britain’s pre-eminent painters of the nude. However, his reputation has suffered as a result of the moral disapproval that often greeted his work. Much of the academic discussion of his work has focused on attempting to rehabilitate him as a serious artist. In this essay I take a different approach by arguing that debate cannot be most usefully advanced by presenting as critical alternatives the notions that Etty’s work should be seen as either morally superior to, or as fatally implicated in, practices of pornographic viewing and production. By focusing on a series of his later works that illustrate his increasing interest in Catholic visual and material culture, notably those depicting the penitent Mary Magdalen, this essay argues that the religious and the erotic in his work should not be seen as incompatible phenomena. Rather, Etty should be regarded as an exponent of nineteenth-century attempts to create contexts of erotic desire that were also morally pure.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): William Etty, Anglo-Catholicism, Mary Magdalen, sexuality, prostitution, commodification
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Dominic Janes
    Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2011 11:05
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 16:56


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