Auguste Rodin whimsically dismissed his latest effort with a casual Gallic shrug as “a sculpted knick-knack following the usual formula”.
In 1889, when the public had first set eyes on the larger than life marble of the ill-fated Paola and Francesca of Dante’s Inferno, there was a critical furore – opinions raging from “totally obscene” to “divinely beautiful”.
This over-preened version of Le Baiser, “The Kiss”, is Danish, one of the three made in Rodin’s lifetime. It was commissioned in 1900 by the supercivilised brewer Carl Jacobsen for his sculpture gallery, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Some time later, Carl donated “The Little Mermaid” to the city of Copenhagen, having fallen for Ellen Price, the star of the homonymous ballet. Ellen had only agreed to model her head and shoulders – the sculptor’s wife sat for the naked parts.
The overt passion of the woman of Le Baiser belongs to 17 year old Camille Claudel, Rodin’s mistress and muse of the time. She had had no hesitation in agreeing to pose as Francesca déshabillé.
The youthful Ellen Price and Camille Claudel were both inherently talented artists, one an actor-cum-dancer, the other a sculptress – both had been born into prosperous, middle-class families. Danish Ellen was brought up with the social values of “Protestant Europe”. Camille’s provincial French family, mother fiercely Catholic, was brought up in a milieu with social values more characteristic of a Mediterranean country. Ellen refused to flaunt her body, but Camille thought nothing of it – despite the lifelong and tragic fury of her mother.
In 2003, as her contribution to the Tate Triennial, installation artist Cornelia Parker CBE RA tightly wrapped the Tate’s Baiser in a mile of string, calling it “The Distance (A Kiss With String Attached)”. Strong objection came from the “Stuckists”, and Piers Butler sheared off the offensive string in front of a crowd of couples “engaged in live kissing”. Cornelia knotted it all back together again. Heavens!
At the time, the Tate Modern had relegated Le Baiser to a prominent position in front of the lavatories. Now, Le Baiser is not on view at all.
Now, as IVF is quite remarkably effective, babies are fast becoming convenient social constructs – kissing not required.
Mind you, the former The Right Honourable Matt Hancock has been responsible for igniting a significant epidemic of “office snogging”, preferably in front of an audience of assorted colleagues, cleaners, flower ladies, visitors. Some are likely to say, “Oo! – ever so sorry”, and back off, blushing; others might say, “Oh for God’s sake get a room!”; a few could say, “Go have a cold shower!”.
Well, the latter might not be such a good idea – what about hypothermia?
Do we all know that dropping the body temperature by 2°C can be fatal? If you were suffering from hypothermia, it is highly likely that you would not realise as the slowly subtle signs and symptoms would be –
- * Shivering
- * Slurred or mumbled speech
- * Slow, shallow breathing
- * Weak pulse
- * Lack of coordination
- * Drowsiness/fatigue
- * Confusion/memory loss
- * Loss of consciousness
(Thank you Mayo Clinic)
Obviously, if you come across one of your co-cold water bathers behaving even more strangely than usual, please dial 999.
The benighted lover-boy Lord Byron might have started the whole bad idea by swimming across the Hellespont in 1810 – 4km in one hour 10, doing breaststroke: he was better at swimming than walking.
There is not one jot of academic evidence of any lasting beneficial effect from cold water bathing – it’s simply dangerous. The well publicised Wim Hof Method entailing deep breathing, along with immersion in extremely cold water, is even more so. Beware.
“What about saunas then”, you might say – “Are they dangerous?”
A medical school friend at Barts had the most spectacular Scandinavian girl friend who asked him home (?to meet the parents). He had a great weekend in a small and icy town where the weekly Saturday treat was a trip to the local communal sauna (I might mention here that this was a time when medical students wore three piece suits and stiff collars – at least, we did). The girl friend showed him where to take his clothes off. Re-appearing clutching a diminutive towel, he was sent back to take his pants off. Eventually, he pushed open the swing doors into the sauna proper, a theatre in the round with steeply tiered benches, filled with a large number of people of both sexes and all ages as stark naked as he now was. Shocked and embarrassed, he saw the only seats unoccupied were on the top row. Making a run for it, he leapt up the steep aisle, collapsing gratefully on the empty bench. Very quickly he became very hot and felt very faint. Plucked by chortling boys and girls from his seat, he was dragged out into the snow, rolled around a bit, and then beaten with a bunch of birch twigs. Well, he would have been, wouldn’t he? He became a psychiatrist.
Surviving winter in ancient Finland would have been somewhat fraught, quite apart from keeping warm and clean. Many thousands of years ago, regular sauna bathing would have been recognised as a powerful aid to health and lifespan, certainly attendance was akin to worship.
Today, these health benefits are fully recognised world wide, and well researched and documented. They are too numerous to fully explore now, but here is a brief list of “highlights” –
- *Sauna use mimics physiological and protective responses induced during exercise.
- *Repeated sauna use optimises stress responses via hormesis (low-dose stimulation) and heat shock proteins.
- *Sauna use appears to reduce morbidity and mortality in a dose-dependent manner.
- *Frequent sauna use may protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease.
- *Sauna use provides a means of preserving muscle mass and countering sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing).
(When considering sauna baths, please consult your doctor concerning any health problems).
Reference: Sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan PMID: 34363927
. . . .
From Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary; 1755:
Kiss n.s. [from the verb.] Salute given by joining lips.
What sense had I of her stol’n hours of lust?
found not Cassio’s kisses on her lips.
Upon my livid lips bestow a kiss:
O envy not the dead, they feel not bliss!
Buss n.s. [bus, the mouth, Irish; baiser, Fr]. A kiss; a salute with the lips.
Thou dost give me flattering busses. —By my troth, I kiss thee with a most constant heart.
Shakesp. Henry IV. P. ii
Some squire perhaps you take delight to rack,
Who visits with a gun, presents with birds,
Then gives a smacking buss.
. . . .
Tabhair póg dom, is Éireannach mé