Personal Life As A Social Construction – Family As A Respectable Place In The Social Hierarchy

Max Ernst, “The Feast of the Gods” (1948)
Max Ernst, “The Feast of the Gods” (1948)

Militant people, who behave as cruel gods whose very glory is bloodthirsty, are very often the topic of Ernst’s critical inspiration. In “The Feast of the Gods” Ernst depicts the godlike family metaphorizing the top 1% of the population, which enjoys its glory amidst the admiration of the worshipping crowds. From the left to the right we see the head of the family (a financial global leader whose power surpasses that of the monarchs of the old times), his wife whose shining is stronger than that of the super-novas, and to the right – their daughter, the super-duper pincer-princess. But who is that robot-like figure in the foreground, in a monstrous helmet and green-colored armor? It is, it seems, the daughter’s future groom and meanwhile the family‘s top guard (look how he protects her with his left hand) whose military and financial prowess and power posture vis-à-vis the world qualifies him as the best candidate for the hand of the irresistible pincer-princess and for becoming the future keeper and expander of the family’s luck, land and lot. The father, probably, has hands equally in finances and in wars (there is less and less difference between the two). Two super-macho males and two super-phallic females is the family of human gods whose everyday life is totally glorious and totally destructive to the world. But why did Ernst choose a title that makes accent not on the gods, but on their feast? Their direct gaze at the people (like in the happy marital and family photos) hints at the meaning of their feast. They look at people as their potential prey. The feast of these magnificent beasts-gods, it seems, is the essence of their family life – their private life which gives them the justification to be effective predators in the public realm, when barbaric economic practices like devastating the environment by obsession with fossil fuels or forcing the austerity measures on the population are components of their tireless feast of creating a better future for their elite off-springs.

Max Ernst, “Two Sisters” (1926)
Max Ernst, “Two Sisters” (1926)

Let’s start with the more innocent and less imposing: younger sister.
– How do you know which of two sisters is the younger one?
– By painter’s several characterizations. First, the younger one is second “in line”.
– What line? I don’t see any line.
– She is behind her elder sister who is at the center of the painting and looks directly at “us”, the viewers, especially men (she is the first in line of choosing and being chosen). See, how directly and attentively she looks, and her nose and her very gaze is an exclamation mark turned over, with the dot marking the center of her gaze.
– Why is she one-eyed? Is she a feminine Cyclopes or something?
– She, probably, has two eyes, but her gaze is so strong, attentive and greedy (she is trying so hard to be successful in her search that the intensity of her gaze is like a beam). In comparison, her younger sister’s nose and gaze forms a reversed question mark: she is not yet sure she is able to assess potential partners. She is not yet “in the game”, she is just learning.
– Why the elder sister is without mouth?
– She doesn’t need her lips yet. She is very calculative. When she’ll find the one whom she needs, she will open her mouth.
– But then why does the younger sister, “who is not yet in the game” has a mouth?
– Because her mouth is not important yet (her tiny red spot of a mouth is naively opened: she is confused by the world and doubting her potential chances). Also pay attention to how different skin is in two sisters, the skin of the younger one is fresher, while the elder has a skin more grayish.
– What is that strange, almost round object in the upper right part of the painting?
– It is the moon, the presence of which confirms that we are dealing with the procedure of selecting intimate partners.
– What are those ugly forms in place where the elder sister‘s breasts ought to be?
– It is how people tap the doorknocker to be let in.
– Yes, but why these metal doorknockers are located where we expect to see her breasts?
– They are her breasts.
– What? Why?
– I mean, they are Ernst’s metaphors of her breasts, for the potential grooms to appeal to her to open the door.
– What door is that? What’re you talking about?
– Her bodily door, don’t you see that her body is like a wooden door?
– But why her body is supposed to be like a wooden door?
– Perhaps, because she is calculating too much how to find the best groom in the world. She has become hardened by her monolithic determination to make the best choice. Her emotions and body became woodened.
– But what are those strange embellishments on her belly, one red and one black?
– I will be happy to explain to you what they are. But before we go there I have to remind you that Max Ernst is not only a painter, but also thinker, and a very tough human being with a sharp ironic vision of human world. If you really want to know what these two rhombuses are, the answer is: the upper, the red one is the elder sister’s vagina, and the lower, black one, is her rectum.
– What a rector to do with it?
– Not a rector, rectum. It is, well, an ass hole.
– But… but…
– Don’t be so shocked. She advertises both orifices in a situation of choosing potential partners; she is prepared to be assessed by them. Simultaneously, of course, she is trying to frighten the weaklings among male pretenders. She needs real man, you know, who will, for her sake be ready to conquer the world.