Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Are women today gorgeous like the women of old were?

Has the ideal of beauty changed over time?  It's a little bit hard to answer that question because who knows if an artist painted a woman because he/she thought she was beautiful or because she was interesting or intriguing or his/her lover and available.  But we can at least look at paintings from the last millenium and see what we see...

We'll begin with a fresco from Pompeii in approximately 1100.

Pompeii, The Three Graces, 1100

Adam and Eve, Hans Memling, approx 1400
I am intrigued by Eve's very thin chest cavity and very small breasts along with her substantially larger (proportionally) hips.  Adam is thin as well.

Birth of Venus, Botticelli, 1485
This is one of the most famous depictions of female beauty in Western Art.  Her body is not the body women strive for today - she seems to have more flesh than we are supposed to want to have, especially in her belly.

Venus and Cupid, Iessandro Allori, 1560
Another depiction of Venus, the goddess of love.  Again, this woman has more flesh than our models of today.  Muscular arms too!

Adam and Eve, Michelangelo, 1590
This is one of my favorites!  Supposedly Michelangelo didn't use female models when he painted so his women ended up looking like men with breasts.  If you look at Eve, I think you can see evidence of that - her back muscles and thighs look very masculine to me.  And her breasts look more like solid muscle than any breast tissue I've ever seen - more like pecs!

Venus at her Mirror, Rubens, 1613-15
Most people have heard of the "Rubenesque body".  Well, here is one.  It's generally thought to be fleshy, saftig to use the German word - juicy, full-bodied.  Healthy and voluptuous.  What would our society be like if this were the ideal of beauty? I think I personally would feel more comfortable in my body.

I'll end there for today.  Tomorrow we'll look at 19th century and beyond, when the depictions changed drastically.  Thanks for taking this journey with me!

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