“What would have happened if the aesthetic standard of our society had belonged to the collective unconscious of the great artists of the past?” So asks Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano in her Venus project, which re-imagines classic artistic depictions of Venus with a modern and extreme Photoshop makeover. What begin as mostly Rubenesque beauties are transformed into busty, slim-waisted figures more closely matching the ideals we are bombarded with today.
Giordano’s reworking of the classics raises a number of questions about the aesthetic standards of our current society and its obsession with near impossibly adolescent figures. Is our current ideal healthy or even possible for most women? Is todays preference even as attractive as the more “natural” figure depicted in the original versions of these paintings? As the standards of beauty have evolved through history we have seen vast fluctuations in ideals. From the plump beauty standards of China’s Tang Dynasty, to the waif-thin ideals of 1920s flapper style and the voluptuous 1950s, we’ve seen standards change for a long, long time.
In our current era, we are marketed standards of beauty like never before. Advertisements portraying that ideal hang on every corner of the street and internet, subtly effecting our perceptions of what looks beautiful and setting up standards that put pressure on men and women alike. How do the beautiful women in these classic paintings hold up to a modern treatment? While some may appear to have found some healthy improvement with their digital nip and tuck, others turn out looking disturbingly thin and adolescent. Which do you find more attractive?
Above: J.A.D. Ingres – Venus Anadyomene
Below: Alexandre Cabanel – The Birth of Venus
Angelo Bronzino – Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time
Botticelli – La Nascita di Venere
Hayez – Venus
Tiziano – Venere di Urbino
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The Birth of Venus
Velazquez – Venere e Cupido
Artemisia Gentilischi – The Sleeping Venus
Westal Richard – The Power of Venus