Catholic art and Sovietic art: why is everybody sulking?

To sulk: verb. be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.

If your ideology was really making you happy, you would smile. At least, this is the very simplistic thought I tend to have.

So then, why is everybody always so morose on catholic art and on soviet art?

  • Maybe that’s out of respect for the founders or the messiahs? Lenin and co did not suffer as much as crucified Jesus, but the historiography leveraged a lot their exiles and prison years. Maybe it is not decent to demonstrate your happiness when you follow the footsteps of a martyr.
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Happy time on the Cathedral of Strasbourg.
  • Maybe that’s because the goal is so ambitious that it does not leave room for frivolity? We’ve got to work hard to achieve [insert ideology goal here].
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Hilarity of the soldiers who just won Word War II, in Vladivostok.
  • Maybe because many of the paintings and sculptures depict a moment of adversity? I can admit that, once half dead and hanging from a cross, or after 4 years suffering in assaulted Leningrad, you’re not smiling crazily.
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Nothing farcical about this scene illustrated at the Saint-Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
  • Maybe because joy is a sin? There is a Christian tradition of grieving over sins that is supposed to lead to purification. Maybe, in Sovietic terms, smiling is bourgeois.
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These workers are too concentrated in building the society of the future, on a factory’s mosaic in Komsomolsk-na-Amure.
  • Maybe because it is propaganda? Or in marketing language, a tool for retention? After all, why would everybody keep the need for a cause if they were happy already…
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Sheer folly in Buenos Aires’ Metropolitan Cathedral.
  • Maybe that’s because we should not compare ourselves with Christian nor Sovietic icons? What they depict is not a human like us, with a vivid facial expression, but a transfigured and ideal image of man (I came up with all other hypotheses, but this one, I found it here).
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Humans are allowed to smile after a Victory, whether they’re a child in 1945 or an old lady nowadays. It’s icons that don’t smile.

But is this a universal rule? Do they really never smile?

No. It’s been years I travel the world looking for counter-examples. And I think I have found them:

THE SMILING ANGEL

There are smiling angels on Reims cathedral. I am not quite sure why they smile there and nowhere else (that I am aware of). One of them, after being destroyed during a great fire in World War I, was restored and is now the symbol of the cathedral. I happened to be there last weekend so I took a photo of it.

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Reims cathedral’s smiling angel.

THE SMILING SOVIETIC MUM

It’s been quite a challenge to find her, but there she is. Celebrating the May 1945 victory and full of admiration for the brave Soviet warriors.

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There is a smiling woman on this sculpture that celebrates the Soviet Union’s Victory in 1945 in Minsk, Belarus. Can you see her?
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Zoom on her. Unbelievable, she really does smile and wipes off a tear of joy.

If you know more smiling examples, please share them!

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