Victorious Secret – Entertaining Notions of Elite Ideals for Women, 300AD

by Angela Lorenz

Victorious Secret peacock

Victorious Secret fan text

Edition of 41 copies              3.5″ x 9″ closed              2013

This is a companion volume to three framed mosaic triptychs made out of buttons and hairpins, created to raise awareness regarding ancient ideals of elite sports for women and to celebrate 40 years of Title IX. The artist’s book in an edition of 41 copies serves as a key to interpret the mosaics, based on originals from Piazza Armerina, Sicily.

Chance encounters with educated Italians that have visited the site in the last year have revealed to me that tourists still come away from the site without realizing these women are victorious elite athletes. I created the piece to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which over the years has not just helped to fund women’s athletics, but to change attitudes about the participation of women and girls in competitive sports.

The button mosaics started their journey at Dartmouth College in 2013, in 2014 traveled to Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, Waterfall Arts in Belfast, ME and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, in 2015 to Yale University in New Haven, CT, Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA and to University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. In the context of universities and schools, this installation resonates in many spheres, both academic and athletic. The exhibition draws interest from those studying Classics, archeology, history, women’s studies, women in athletics, and visual art. In exhibiting the mosaics at schools my goal is to place them in areas with a lot of student foot traffic, to transmit this message about goals for women in elite sports 2,000 years ago to young people that don’t necessarily make it into university art museums.

The artist’s book was created by scanning pages with text rendered through wax graffiti, in imitation of the first Roman codex books, and in the tradition of ancient graffiti incised on the walls of buildings. The scanned pages and scanned peacock feathers were laser-printed on archival watercolor paper produced by Cartiere Magnani di Pescia. The book is bound with a brass screw post, vintage Italian buttons and brass wire. It opens into a fan shape, as peacock and ostrich fans were used in Roman times. The peacock was the symbol of Hera/Juno to whom many ancient female athletic competitions were dedicated, in both Greece and the Roman Empire.

Text of Artist’s Book

text victorious secret

Weights (halteres) used in long jump, not rattles for musicians.

Discus for throwing, not a tambourine.

Hoop (trochus) with stick for competitive races at prestigious games in various cities of the Roman empire.

A ball game substituted wrestling in the women’s events. 

These privileged women also memorized and recited texts. The men wore nothing at all when competing.

The elite, chaste champions received a palm at the moment of victory,

And a crown at a ceremony, which made the patrician families proud of their athletic daughters whom they encouraged to compete.

It’s too bad they are still famous for what they are wearing, not what they are doing: “Bikini Girls” 300AD Piazza Armerina Sicily

Victorious Secret: Entertaining Notions of Elite Ideals for Women, 300AD.


Angela Lorenz  2013        /41


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