The painting depicts a view seen from the arena floor, where a triumphant gladiator, standing astride his fallen victim, looks up into the crowd to receive the message that will decide the stricken man’s fate. From their front-row box next to the Emperor’s party, the Vestal Virgins enthusiastically turn “thumbs down” to seal the loser’s demise. [More...]
I was thinking about this painting because I’ve been playing around with Pandora — an internet music radio station that happens to be great fun. Pandora also happens to ask listeners to use the ‘thumbs down vs. thumbs up’ gesture a lot.
While I was looking for images of Gérôme’s Pollice Verso, I learned (from the same page linking to “thumbs down,” above) that, as the ring finger was believed to be connected to the heart (hence the wedding band on the left hand’s ring finger), the thumb was believed to be superior to all the other fingers because it was typically not banded by a ring. Further, it was believed to be connected to the genitals: “…the thumb had regenerative powers and, indeed, the erect thumb, in its suggestion of the phallus, was regarded as being apotropaic, i.e., having the power to avert evil.”
Who knew? It certainly gives “twiddling your thumbs” a whole new dimension… Guitar strings being strummed by the thumb suddenly focuses emphasis not just on the sound hole, but on the strummer’s digit…
Which brings me back to music and Pandora, where I, the listener, get to give the songs they play the thumbs up or the thumbs down, according to my pleasure. Well, now I can get an added mental thrill everytime I do that thing — even if it is only virtually. I learned about Pandora through an LA Times article, That song sounds familiar (Feb.3, 2006). From the article:
In the beginning, there was music. Childhood and young adulthood floated by to a soundtrack of lyrics and rhythms and searing guitar riffs that consumed you, became you, constituted your identity, galvanized your intent, spoke your soul.
But time passes, classrooms fade to cubicles, and a vast landscape of new music turns foreign and unexplored. [More...]
Enter Pandora, which lets you find contemporary music you’ll probably like. If you like it, you can keep on strumming, and if you don’t, you can give it the thumbs down.