Looking at the portraits of some of the most beautiful women in history and reading about how impressed were men and how popular were, we came pretty hard sometimes to understand why.
Perhaps these women were charismatic, or perhaps the definition beauty was not the same as our guiding today. If you think a woman looks like today, which we consider beautiful and quickly compare with Mary Stuart, who became queen of Scotland in 1542, we will understand more easily how related concepts of beauty have changed over time, can also do a review of the standards imposed by society.
It is said that theory according to which women should be beautiful and powerful men, is the result of several centuries of evolution.
Beginnings of the concept of beauty.
In ancient times, the most important aspect in the choice of partner was health. Men to cope with hunting and family support had to be tall and have a large muscle mass. Women, however, to be able to lead a task to an end and to cope with birth needed, ample hips and large breasts. Therefore, in a time when the sick had little chance of survival, beauty was a healthy body, able to meet vital needs.
Until in the century of Pericles, fifth century BC, when Athens won a significant development, becomes the cultural, political and economic center of Greece, there was no clear definition of beauty. Before painting and sculpture to develop great beauty was attributed to other virtues such as truth, loyalty, harmony. However, when artists began to paint or write, began to outline some features that, if a person or an object had, they deserved to be called “beautiful.”
Greek philosophers were the first people who asked what makes a person beautiful. Plato, who saw beauty as a result of symmetry and harmony, created the “golden proportion” in which, among other things, the ideal face width was considered as representing two-thirds of its length, and the face must be perfectly symmetrical. Now, after more than 2,000 years, scientists have tested the theory of philosopher and concluded that he was right: we are attracted to symmetry. The book Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea offers an effective investigation of ancient Greek notions of beauty.
But the Greeks were not just obsessed with symmetry, but also long blond hair that is associated with youth and fertility.
The Romans borrowed many elements from Greek, especially in culture. Therefore, we find the worship of women with long and blond hair. To discolor hair, women in Rome used a mixture of beech wood ash, goat fat, vinegar, pigeon droppings and saffron. In many cases, the use of this solution led to total loss of hair.
The beauty takes shape.
In the Middle Ages, female beauty has become a more complex in western Europe. In an era when women were seen as “predators” who are just waiting to win a man to dominate their concerns to fashion were classified as living proof of physical challenge. Most criticisms came from the clerics, who opposed women’s habit of wearing jewelry.
Women, once married, were obliged to hide their hair so as not to arouse desires in the minds of other men. Only virgins were allowed to wear their hair disheveled. Also, blond hair was not appreciated, the collective mind considering that hair color refers to fornication. So the blonde women began to blacken their hair color with lye.
Only at the end of the Middle Ages, with the Renaissance, artists began to rebel against moral and religious ideas imposed by the priests and seek pleasure in the imagination. Renaissance discovers, through painting, two concepts that are shaking sharp mind of the artist: technical perspective and the human body.
We are dealing with a valorization of principles from the past. Artists again appreciate purity and youth, beauty regains canons of ancient Greek period.
The particularity of the Renaissance is the emergence of a new obsession in the art, namely the breast. Nudity gets even in religious images or those maternal. One of the most popular ideas is that of the Virgin breastfed the Child. Although Mary is painted with bare chest, her only once maturity is that she became a mother, remaining untouched, a symbol of beauty.
The idea of being able to see a woman’s breasts or cleavage was more accepted than now. Instead, the woman was criticized if she knowingly exposed the ankles or shoulders.
Pale skin, a distinctive element that heighten the sense of purity, was also easily removed in the Renaissance. Until then reddened cheeks were a sign of riots and sin. Virtue & Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women, a beautifully illustrated and exquisitely designed volume of paintings, sculpture, medals, and drawings celebrates the extraordinary flowering of female portraiture, mainly in Florence, beginning in the latter half of the fifteenth century.
However, white cheeks have not exhausted its charm. Although over time has lost significance, pale face was in vogue up to the twentieth century as a sign of beauty and good taste.
In the Tudor period in England, although women should be pretty healthy and fulfilled, to give birth to successors, men prefer women with small breasts. Most definite proof of this are dresses that keep women tied down.
A supporter of pale skin was Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII. Although his father had mixed tastes in women, Elizabeth wanted to restore the image of the Virgin Queen, and she succeeded. Also, Elizabeth brought back to the light, proportionate body and made the beauty of women, to be judged by ankle thickness.
If, in the seventeenth century, Puritans have cataloged, makeup and dresses decorated as sinful, supporting women’s rounded forms, the century that followed was one in the which the emphasis is on bodily pleasures, women are considered as a kind of beautiful objects.
A century later is changing matrix beauty. Beautiful women are neither weak or fat, with a fragile waist. Hair is the most valuable accessory, being worn in large buns, oversized and powdered. It is caught up with ribbons, bows, and feathers, and the bun height and volume were evidence of the family wealth of the woman.
In the Victorian era, pale face is again highly valued, so that fire guards from the fireplace, are famous. They are designed, to prevent redness of ladies cheeks who sit near the stove.
However, the element of beauty in the Victorian era was the size. Victorian era offered a delightful display of styles reflecting English, French, and American tastes. Victorian Fashions: A Pictorial Archive, 965 Illustrations― arranged chronologically and dated by year ― provides a rich pictorial record of clothing styles from that period.
Underlined by the corset, which helps women to get appreciated hourglass shape, size must have, on average, 40 centimeters. In this case, many women suffer from a respiratory failure or malfunction of some internal organs.
Even more dangerous than the bodice was a tool of iron that was used to shape the nose.
Venus in exile, changing canons of beauty.
The twentieth century brought more and fastest changes in the concept of beauty, keeping many of the customs of the Victorian era but creating new ones, even more painful or more bizarre than the earlier ones.
In the ’20s, women’s curves are no longer fashionable. Corrective underwear is an essential accessory, which should not be missing, from woman’s wardrobe. Thus, the waist descends, somewhere in the area of hips.
The most visible element that makes women beautiful was the haircut. Hair was straight and cut to the ears, both as a sign of beauty and as an expression of desire for equality between the sexes.
In the ’30s, bob haircut and hair stretched disappear and were worn loose curls. Then in the next decade, with the dawn of the Second World War, the fashion capital moves from Paris to New York. The period of austerity required to support the war made the naturalness being be appreciated, and the most feminine characteristic was long hair.
The early 1960s has as a symbol, model Twiggy, who has two defining features: height 1.67 m and a weight of 48 kg. This is the first time that beauty is not defined as health but by sexuality and fame. Hence, cosmetic and plastic surgery, are a central woman “tools” in her way toward the ideal.
XXI century beauty is taken to extremes, where everything is allowed, and nothing is shameful. The hair may be left, trapped in a bun or even be missing, as a vital link to the concept of beauty is the attitude.
Throughout history, the concept of beauty has revealed society the way she thought and action. Always there was an interdependence between the way it was viewed, the beauty and cultural ideals of society.
Now, Hong Kong scientists say that the beauty depends on the volume-height index.
The ratio is calculated by dividing the volume of the body, to the square of height (distance from chin to heel) and assume that it indicates not only the attractiveness of women but also health and fertility.
Therefore, in future it is possible that cultural ideals about beauty, to be confined to canons based on limits, with the role of establishing the degree of sexual attraction and that of fertility.