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Definition Of Beauty And Its Portrayal In Art And Fashion

2115 words - 8 pages

How can beauty be defined and how is it portrayed in art and fashion?

Who sets the standards for beauty? What must one do to truly look beautiful? What does feeling beautiful mean? When considering the concept of beauty one must differentiate between the universal and relative perception of beauty. Among the components of universal beauty are harmony, symmetry and utility. However, perception of beauty is also relative, when it is defined by the standards of the time that are subjective to the socio economic values of the era. One of the ways these values are communicated is through images portrayed in art and in modern times through the media. ‘Fashion’ is the carrier of theses values though physical appearance and self-image that define power, rank, acceptability and belonging. Having ‘fashion’ as the medium of these relative values bring advantages and disadvantages. Although there are benefits of matching the fashion of the time, positive self-image and satisfaction with a feeling of acceptance these are temporary because fashion is ever changing. On the other hand not conforming to the contemporary standards can have a detrimental impact on self-image that leads to feeling a sense negative self worth and marginalized. Eating disorders are a powerful manifestation that fashion has on the psyche. The underlying idea of what fashion ‘is’ is value. Amongst all the change of fashion, value remains ever present.
Different Impacts of how values influence beauty in art.
Historically the idea of feminine beauty has reflected the standard and values of that era, “from the Rebenesque women of the 17th century to the contemporary symbols of fashion, different body shapes have been selected for, and associated with, desirable social statues”(GARNER et al. 2011) An example of this would be the fashion in the 1500‘s. It was very restricted, for example the bosom was very reserved. Holbeins portrait painting of Jane Seymour (Image 1) depicts the busts as the preferred standard of beauty. The fashion was to have the shoulders, neck, waist and hips as the most prominent beauty features. However in the mid 17th century, the painting of Suzanne Fourment by Peter Paul Ruben (Image 2) is an example of the fuller breast being beautiful and in fashion, again. The dress fashionable at the time is empathizing the well-endowed fuller figure. ‘For the Dutch painter of the time, the signs of the ephemeral nature of the corporeal appear only to the substantiate the beauties and richness of life.’ (Koda 2001)

(Image 1) (Image 2) (Image 3)
In the 18th century having small breast was again more beautiful than the 17th century globular forms of the big bosomed Rubenesque women. The portrayal is of the period beauty (Image 3) with her small and wide set breast in contrast to her wet nurse with the large functional breast. This painting is portraying the social status and values of the...

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