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How The Ideals Of Female Beauty Changed From The 15th To The 20th Century
How The Ideals Of Female Beauty Changed From The 15th To The 20th Century

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Video: How Women's Perfect Body Types Changed Throughout History 2022, December
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What did it mean to be beautiful in the Middle Ages? What do Rubens' paintings and contemporary plus size models have in common? At what point in human history did women place their stake not on beauty, but on freedom? Anastasia Postrigai, art critic, founder of the @op_pop_art school of popular art and author of the book Falling in Love with Art: From Rembrandt to Andy Warhol, will answer these questions in her regular column for bazaar.ru. Together with our columnist, we are trying to track, through the iconic works of famous artists, how the ideals of female appearance have changed over the long centuries of the last millennium.

XV century

"Christina Pizanskaya and her son"
"Christina Pizanskaya and her son"

In the distant Middle Ages, the body was perceived as a case for the soul, and it was considered a sin to demonstrate the beauty of this case. Under dense, tightly closed clothes, it was difficult to see how your chosen one was folded. It didn't matter, though: the main criterion for beauty was … skin! Terrible diseases left stains not only on her, but also on the female future. Therefore, they drank water, as they say, from the face - preferably pure, untouched by all kinds of medieval infections. And the point here is not at all aesthetics: this is how men calculated girls who could give birth to healthy heirs.

XVI century

Raphael "The Lady with the Unicorn" (1506)
Raphael "The Lady with the Unicorn" (1506)

In the Renaissance, everything that looked healthy was considered ideal. Therefore, the beauties were not thin or fat, but always with sloping shoulders and a slightly noticeable tummy. The fashion for light skin has not disappeared anywhere: now the main enemy of female beauty has been declared tan - a sign of ignoble origin. Those who love to bask in the sun risked not only their appearance and prospects of marriage, but also their lives: the cosmetics we were used to did not exist, and everything that could whiten the skin contained deadly lead.

17th century

Peter Paul Rubens "The Three Graces" (1634)
Peter Paul Rubens "The Three Graces" (1634)

By the 17th century, the ideals of beauty had reached plus size. The great Rubens in his entire career, it seems, has not written a single skinny woman - and we still call puffy beauties "Rubensian". It must have been a good time when cellulite was not a reason for condemnation and cruel jokes, but a sign of a "well-fed" life and beauty.

XVIII century

Francois Boucher "Portrait of Madame de Pompadour" (1756)
Francois Boucher "Portrait of Madame de Pompadour" (1756)

100 years after Rubens, the ladies decided that there is nothing more beautiful than youth, with its rosy cheeks, thin waist and small legs. Therefore, blush, tight corsets and shoes with curved heels ascended the fashionable pedestal. The outfits began to resemble cakes with whipped cream and cream roses, and the real coquettes were hidden behind this deliberate decor - for them “naturally” was synonymous with the word “ugly”.

Early 19th century

Jacques-Louis David "Portrait of Madame Recamier" (1800)
Jacques-Louis David "Portrait of Madame Recamier" (1800)

However, at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, something strange happened: women suddenly abandoned the once necessary, but in fact, completely inhuman wardrobe item - a corset. Women of fashion were inspired by the ideals of Antiquity, and ancient ladies could not even think that clothes could mercilessly squeeze their ribs - this is unnatural! Therefore, contemporaries of Napoleon Bonaparte had an amazing honor: they fell in love with beauties free from the steel embrace of fashion.

But several years have passed - and fashion has won back its right to do anything with a woman's silhouette, even in spite of the initial data.

19th century

Karl Bryullov "Portrait of M. Beck with his daughter" (1840)
Karl Bryullov "Portrait of M. Beck with his daughter" (1840)

In the era of the artist Karl Bryullov, romantic natures were considered the first beauties. They always wore a corset, sensually bared their shoulders and curled playful curls at their temples, and at the balls they fanned themselves languidly, putting on a dreamy look and shooting ardent glances at handsome gentlemen.

Early 20th century

Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer by John Sargent (1901)
Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer by John Sargent (1901)

In the ideal female silhouette of the early 20th century, lines are guessed that, half a century later, will become Marilyn Monroe's signature: a lush bust, thin waist, expressive hips - a ticket to the ranks of beauties. It was a time of intense femininity, where progress came on its heels. And while the ladies were lacing up the corsets again, one very talented man figured out how to get rid of this torment from the steamer of modernity. The man was fashion designer Paul Poiret, and he showed the world that women's dresses can be cut in the same way as men's shirts: loosely and according to a natural figure.

XX century

Tamara Lempicka "Self-portrait in green" Bugatti "(1929)
Tamara Lempicka "Self-portrait in green" Bugatti "(1929)

Poiret's ideas were picked up by the whirlpool of history: the First World War made women forget about beauty and remember about convenience. But the war was over, and I did not want to return to the old ideals. The era of "The Great Gatsby" gave us a new type of femininity: boyishly mischievous, bright, free. The flapper girls cut their hair short, moved quickly, lived rapidly.

But this ideal became the last big coin in the piggy bank of beauty standards: over the past hundred years, nothing new has been invented in the requirements for female appearance. Marilyn Monroe would be considered a beauty, and at the beginning of the 20th century, Edie Sedgwick, the muse of Andy Warhol, would become the ideal heroine of Fitzgerald, and modern plus size models are asking for Rubens' paintings. History seems to be trying to hint to us: you can't keep up with the ideal, and on sharp turns you can miss the main thing - yourself and your unique beauty.

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