Antigone and Ismene: the id and Superego through representations of women in art

The strain of Sophocles' characters Antigone and Ismene as personifying Freud's id and superedo can be traced through the representation of women in art. Throughout history, women have been regulary presented in the Greco-Roman tradition, a pure and moral figure, a mother or virgin. This representation has become the convention, and Ismene lives on in these representations, as the law abiding woman, aware of her role in society. Antigone can be traced in the images of women deviating from this convention, though they are still often moral figures who are supported by the public, despite the break from convention. Finally, women are occasionally presented with Freud's full rang of teh unconcious, possessing an ego to balance the id and the superego. These peices are characterized by a still tranquility and stability as the Antigone and Ismene elements balance eachother.

Like Ismene and Antigone, these three sisters mourne the death of their brother. Yet, this image retains a sense of tranquility as the brother has been given the propery furerary rights.
This sculpture represents a traditional Greco-Roman female nude. She stands in a contrapposto stance, hands covering herself, seeming pure and beautiful.
Boticelli's painting mimics the pose of the Capitoline Venus, continuing the tradition of the Greco-Roman woman, and enforcing this ideal as a societal norm.
Mary is representative of the perfect traditional woman, motherly, beautiful and moral.The superego seems to control her actions, yet the tranquility and stability of the composition shows the presence of the balancing ego.
Judith commits a violent act that seems thouroughly id-driven, yet like Antigone, her actions remain within the moral code of society.
Liberty is presented similarly to the traditional Greco-Roman woman, yet like Antigone, she is a moral figure, supported by the people, even if she contradicts a societal expectation that a woman does not fight.
Degas presents the duality of a single person. A woman and her reflection mimic the id and the superego, yet seem at odds in their contrast. As in "Antigone" this woman seems to lack an ego to mediate.
As in "Madonna of the Meadow" the balance and stillness of this composition indicates that the id, superego, and ego are not competing, rather they are in balance, as symbolically shown by the balance in the woman's hand.
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