as someone who spent a month in italy observing works of fine art and also noticed that a whole bunch of them featured women with just one boob hanging out, i would appreciate an explanation because my art history professor couldn’t provide me with one
Hi-dilly-ho!! I checked the notes to see if anyone had explained it to you yet; doesn’t seem so. My credentials include: art student. That’s about it.
There are actually many reasons behind a European painting depicting subjects with only one breast out! Seeing as this photoset features many of them, I will list down all:
"The Domestic Breast" - paintings of mothers and wet nurses, often inside their home, baring one of their breasts to feed the child they’re caring for, who may or may not appear with them in the painting. Usually done to present the breast-haver not just as a giver of life, but as an invaluable part of any household.
"The Chaste Breast" - when their portraits were painted, many young ladies (mostly French or English) were depicted as baring part of, or all of, one breast, supposedly to communicate the fact that they have either never had sex or borne a child. This can be seen in religious/mythological-themed works that featured famous virgins/pure-hearted heroines.
"The Erotic Breast" - exactly what it says on the tin. Sexually attractive subjects will have just one breast out, to tease the heterosexual male viewer. Oftentimes, the subject will seem unaware of their wardrobe malfunction, to heighten the erotic feel. Then there is the painting’s stand-in for the viewer, usually a man with his line of vision direct towards the breast, or even with his hand grasping it. This was to declare the breast-haver as someone who was ownedby man, or at least owed to him.
"The Amazon Breast" - actually, this title’s a bit of an oxymoron. "Amazon" is theoretically derived from the ancient Greek words a mazos (“without breast”). As you might know, the Amazons were a legendary tribe of warrior women. It is said they chopped off one breast in order to use their bow and arrow more easily. The other breast, they kept to feed their young. Many Greek statues depicting Amazon women will feature them with one breast either covered or completely absent: thus presenting not just as a giver of life, but a destroyer of life. I guess you can see why i decided to end with this example.
If you’d like to read more on this subject, here are somesources!