The Portrayal of Human Beauty Through the Eyes of an Ancient Artist

Throughout the ages, people have concerned themselves with appearances and the illusion of a perfect human form.  Beauty, however, is a fleeting frame of mind. What was once considered attractive is no longer main stream today.  Of course, this seems obvious. Fashion, make-up and hair styles change constantly… but so does the idealistic human form. I hadn’t really thought about this until recently while visiting Musée d’Orsay, The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuseum and other artistic collections. It was very interesting to see the contrast between models used in modern photography and those from ancient master pieces.

IMG_0216 (835x1280)

While visiting Musée d’Orsay, it was noted that the women of ancient sculptures seemed to have smaller breasts and larger tummies than those used in modern art. Grace commented that art is often created in search of the ideal human body. Later on, after discussing the matter with several people, we decided that it is possible that the art better represented the women of it’s time.  For example, in previous ages women didn’t really work. In paintings and sculptures, they are often seen reclining. Hence, it is possible that women from ancient times were not concerned about exercising or gaining muscle.  We also discussed how in many cultures, fuller figures are a sign of wealth.  I had to look this up to verify. One website said that 2 “during the Renaissance (the wealthy and high standing) … began flaunting their large size,” and were represented this way in art.  There was another that stated the opposite, but of course, there are always two sides to a story.

Also at the Musée d’Orsay (though we did not visit their masculinity exhibit) it was noted that not much has changed as far as expectations for the perfect man. Statues, paintings, pictures… they all aspire to portray a well build form.  Even a vogue article stated that 3 “a man is “timeless”(but the same cannot be said)of a woman”.  Ifle students discussed this on various occasions. In previous generations, especially in ancient times, men engaged in physical labor. Naturally, they would develop a muscular form in doing so.  Now a day, most men work in offices. If they want to look like their ancient ancestors, they must work out in a gym. And still, this ideal vision of the male body has remained unchanged.IMG_5260 (855x1280)

Art collections around the world display the artist vision throughout time. It must be a great responsibility to capture the fleeting illusion of beauty. Whether sculpture, painting or photograph, generations will gaze up and strive to modify themselves accordingly.


  1. STARR, BENJAMIN. “Classic Beauties Get A Shocking Photoshop Treatment.” Visual News. N.p., 08 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.
  2. “Dawn Center.” Dawn Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
  3. Sozzani, Franca. “Men’s Aesthetics. Let’s Discuss It.” Web log post. Vouge. Vouge Magazine, 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.


  1. Leda 1851 by James Pradier
  2. Grace gazes up at a piece in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva
  3. A vast hallway within Louvre

Note: I apologize for the lack of appropriate imagery to go with the title 😛


2 thoughts on “The Portrayal of Human Beauty Through the Eyes of an Ancient Artist

  1. Just imagine in 1000 years, looking at a framed painting in louver of Miley Cyrus twerking! The exaggerated belly area may have been more about the man’s early spiritual ideal or central symbolism of the feminine as a vessel, a womb to be filled. A flat belly would portray an empty, infertile symbol…bob


    1. Oh man! O.O That’s kind of a scary thought! Let’s hope our time period is remembered by something a little more graceful, lol.

      Also, thanks for the insight. I had no idea, but it totally makes sense.


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