Our bodies – A visual journey.
July 7, 2012
A comment responding to my last blog post, talked about Norman Lindsay’s paintings. This got me thinking about how our perceptions of what is considered beautiful, when thinking about the female form, have changed over the centuries.
In the 17th Century, Peter Rubens was painting women and they were always a little large and hearty.
The following painting, The Three Graces, was painted around 1693:
I think a lot of women can identify with some of the features present in this painting – biggish bums, solid thighs, bumps, creases, folds and boobs that are a bit smaller than what’s happening in the under-carriage. I think Rubens was a ‘bum’ guy because you can see the women depicted in his paintings in much the same way.
Question #67: Is this the ‘natural’ form of a woman?
Maybe. In that day, I’m sure there were ‘fashions’ (as there always are), but I wonder if altering body shape was one of the goals – as it is obsessively today.
Here is a painting, Imperia, by Norman Lindsay. Norman was painting in the early 1900s (this one was 1920). I think he was definitely a ‘breast’ man:
If you have a look at his female subjects, they were very buxom indeed…but they were also big in the thigh area and around the tummy…plus there’s pubic hair. As I wrote in my response to Hannah, I think the waxed/Brazilian of the pubic area is a new, acquired taste…possibly connecting it to a look where women look pre-pubescent?
By looking at these two paintings, if you had either of these bodies – which a lot of women do – you would probably be unhappy with certain parts. Hell, if women have the ‘perfect’ body, they still find something to hate about it – hence all the ‘altering’ that goes on. (Read my last post – The beauty we aspire to, does not come naturally…or cheaply. Click here)
Were these women unhappy with their bodies? I wonder…
When I was in my early 20s (early 1990s) I remember there was a big story in Cosmopolitan about women’s bodies, that has stayed with me all these years later. Over a two page spread, they had photographs of the bodies, front and back, of about fifteen or so women. Their heads weren’t in the picture and they were completely nude with their hands held together in front of their pubic area.
The article wanted to know what women AND men felt was a beautiful female body. I remember my eyes gravitating towards this gorgeous, lean and ‘perfect’ body. She had longish legs, small waist and breasts that were just right – not too big and not too small. She looked like a size 10 (quite small here in Australia) and she had my vote.
The following month, the results were in. Out of the wonderful mix of body shapes and sizes, the women and men demonstrated a very definitive preference through their choices.
90% of women (yes, 90) voted the same body I had chosen, as the best. No surprises there! My older self feels disappointed with my younger-me…I was as predictable as the rest of the women…all chasing (and still chasing) one body weight and shape.
The men’s choice, however, was interesting. If memory serves about 86% (still a high number) picked the size 14 girl. She was in proportion BUT there were some serious curves…especially around the thigh, stomach and breast area.
Fascinating. I wonder if the guys of today would choose similarly?
To the young women of today, who are fighting their own battle to belong, feel at peace with themselves and (dare I say) find a way to be in love with their bodies, there’s not much of a mirror out there telling them that their bodies are ALL beautiful in their unique way.
I had a friend post a picture on Facebook of an overstretched and biggish stomach from having children. The image was trying in inspire women to love their untaut tummies due to the fact that they had made and grown a HUMAN BEING inside them – an absolute miracle…BUT most mums I know, don’t have that feeling of tenderness towards their stomachs – quite the opposite, in fact.
Question #68: Why do we do it to ourselves?
When I went to Google images of tummies, I predominantly got two images – a ‘hot’ flat stomach or a pregnant belly. (More hot than not!)
How sad that at the end of that pregnant belly, some women are left with a feeling of self-loathing towards what their body is left with. And when they turn for help, all they see is young, slim, taut and perky. C’mon.
The change happens within you and it CAN if you do the following (and it IS this simple):
Go to the mirror NOW and look at yourself through new eyes!! Woooo Hoooo!!