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Prada’s faulty fashion sense

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It’s a well-established fact that word meanings change over time and even include opposite meanings. Demagogue, once signifying a well-liked leader now describes a disingenuous one. The word awful began as awesome and became dreadful. Gay once spoke of lightheartedness and turned into homosexuality.

Then there’s the style word Baroque, which Prada uses to sell its brand of sunglasses. Clearly, this luxury fashion house doesn’t know the meaning of the word past or present.

One look at “Glories of the Baroque” – the 17th century style word for both art and architecture at the San Antonio Museum of Art - would tell Prada that the sunglasses it sells are not Baroque, not even close. In fact, if Prada knew the back story of Baroque, it would run from the word.

That’s because baroque used to be déclassé, something inferior that no self-respecting art lover would go near. How inferior? The word was actually a slur word (barroco in Old Portuguese), meaning “misshapen pearl.” Baroque artists scorned symmetry, balance, and proportion – hardly a beckoning description for Prada’s pricey eyewear.

Typifying the Baroque style was Jusepe Ribera who portrayed torment better than anyone. In The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, the apostle’s executioners truss him with ropes onto a cross, their bloodlust at fever pitch. As they lift the saint’s limp, bare body, Ribera shows terror rising in Bartholomew’s suffering face turned heavenward as if in prayer. To underscore the scene’s viciousness, Ribera included among the bystanders an expressionless woman holding an infant.

Hardly the stuff for a fun day at the beach in Prada Baroque sunglasses.

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