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New Left Review 62, March-April 2010


MALCOLM BULL

GREEN CABINET, WHITE CUBE

In the Judgement of Paris, the shepherd Paris is approached by Mercury to adjudicate between the goddesses Juno, Minerva and Venus, each of whom claims to be the most beautiful. Paris awards the prize to Venus, but this is more than a beauty contest. It is a choice between three ways of life: the active, the contemplative and the sensual. In early modern Europe, those ways of life represented distinct social roles and environments. The active life was that of warfare and the exercise of power; the contemplative life could be achieved through either religious or secular retirement and study; the sensual life was one of material and sexual gratification, and presupposed the ready availability of the commodities consumed.

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