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Home > Evolution of Beauty > Historical Views of Beauty
Historical Views of Beauty
"Judging beauty is deciding whether you want your kids to carry that person`s genes," says Texas University psychologist, Devendra Singh. (Newsweek, 1996). This brief explanation sums up the reason why we perceive beauty. Today, sexual selection may not be in the forefront of people and their perception of female beauty, but it was millions of years ago and this perception has evolved as greatly as one may think. One of the best indicators of a culture`s perception of an ideal female body may be their artwork. For example, in the Sandro Botticelli painting, in the 13th Century, the Birth of Venus, one can see the goddess of love, Venus, standing nude in a large clam. Her body is athletic and muscular. She has a smaller chest, and heavy hips and thighs. Her face has soft, round features, much like the rest of her body. She also seems to have an impossibly long neck and the slope of her shoulder seems a bit unrealistic. However, The Birth of Venus is still a classic example of how the perception of female beauty at a certain time in history can be ascertained by studying artwork.


An even older piece of art called The Venus of Willendorf was found in Austria and has been dated to 30000-25000 B.C. This small statuette is one example of over 200 similar Venus, or Goddess statuettes found from the same time period. These statues are not meant to represent the Roman goddess Venus, but are merely named after her by modern scientists. This statue has a bound face or head, extremely large breasts. There are many theories as to what she represented. Some think that she is a representative idol of an ancient Goddess or priestesses, In any case, she is an exemplary example of art showing the female beauty ideal of a time period.

Another avidly mentioned symbol of ancient female body ideals is a statue depicting a woman exposed from the hips up. This famous piece of artwork is also named after the goddess Venus, and it is called the Venus de Milo and it exhibits the coveted 7% waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). She has a muscular build and not overly large breasts. This piece of art has been dated to 130 -120 B.C., however the artist of this stunning tribute to the female body is unknown.

In history, we see a pattern of, unlike today`s celebrated females in the media, larger body types with round and soft features. Many of the characteristics seen in the paintings and statuette are attributed to fertility, (perfect WHR, relative facial symmetry, plump or muscular build, etc). The reason why these characteristics were so honored is because this is where beauty perception started. For the reason of selecting a mate for oneself.
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