Classic Beauties Get A Shocking Photoshop Treatment

“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


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  • I hate to disparage anyone’s artistic work but lets face it. It is a no go. The old paintings were supposed to show not only a nude woman but the fertility of all women. The bellies and thighs were painted to relay the ripeness of womanhood. I’ll take the original anyday.

  • Miles Baker

    Interesting, but the re-touches make the models look more masculine, i.e., slim-hipped and boyish.

  • Sara

    @Merrily Fantus- …isn’t that the whole point of the project? To question the present day ideal?

  • Cyndi weems

    The original picture depicts a certain time, place, culture. We shouldn’t try to change history. This artwork is part of history.

  • JOn

    For the most part they are quite good, but you seem to have some problems translating the thighs of the women. something wonky happens at their knees as you try to keep the length but not the width (or height as they are mostly reclining) . Another change though is in breast sizes and distances. in these paintings you can see that the preference was for smaller widely set breasts, where as today’s conception has them larger and closer set.

    Are you talking runway conceptions of perfect body form? or advertising conception of perfect body form?
    if its fashion, then they should all be size 0, which would to the naturalistic eye look starved and deathly, (which it rather is). but if you are going for advertising (I’m sure there is another word for this) they all need a tan and better stomachs.

    the best is Hayez – Venus (although i would have left more of her bicep)
    ans the worst is Angelo Bronzino – Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (farthest starting point from today’s conceptions but most prominent example of the knee edit)

  • Tanja

    I love the original works of art. They are all gorgeous. As stated earlier the women in these photos are real, beautiful, curvy, almost ethereal. They are beautiful. I agree with Miles…most retouches look boyish. The only retouches I think may have improved the look were Hayez- Venus (but the thighs were slimmed a lil too much) and West Richard- Power of Venus, although the big girl in the original is pretty the retouched modern ‘ideal’ is pretty too and this one is not stick thin. Funny thing is…almost all men when asked prefer a woman with curves, not to many like the boney look or feel. It is other women who try and set the stick thin ideal for the masses of women. Come on ladies….think for yourselves. You are beautiful and what woman on Earth wants another woman telling her she is too fat and not good enough??? This is why I don’t even buy those goofy magazines LOL! My man luvs me and my curves…hips, boobs and all! Marilyn Monroe was loved and adored by many and her thighs touched too!

  • Andrew

    It seems pretty clear that the objective of the edits was to show the changing ideals of body type rather than to make the women more beautiful. I would be very surprised if the artist saw the results as more desirable. The only thing I would do differently is to modify the body shape of the young man in Botticelli – La Nascita di Venere to have a ripped six pack and more muscular frame, and slim down the kids. This would reflect the change in expectations for men and sadly enough if would reflect the pressure on kids to look “perfect” according to today’s standards.

  • What

    The fat (diabetes) acceptance league is everywhere.

  • Nigel Niceguy

    I prefer the originals – *real* women with *curves* instead of today’s media-imposed notion of the attractive woman – the anorexic, boyish, stick-thin yadda yadda yadda cliche cliche blah blah blah did I say the right thing oh please gimme a biscuit and a pat on the head.

  • CC Volpe

    Sorry Dude, but they look sickly and kinda cattywompass….. a little photoshop does not make you an artist… Skinny anorexic women are not the ideal, what real men want is not to sleep with a pile of coat hangars? Even today those paintings are classic because they show real women ……..

  • Nerdessence

    The original Bouguereau? That’s my body 100%. Don’t go ruining it! >:[

  • Dawn

    It is nice to know that I would have been considered a beauty at one time history. When I was young I was slender, but the way society has women’s standards of beauty, I am basically a 44 year old washed up has been.
    It is part of the problem with the breaking up of the family now.
    And why is it ok if the man has a beer belly. A woman will love him just the same, but if a woman can’t get rid of the belly after being impregnated by that same man, he will leave her for a new and improved model.

  • Dess

    A whole lot of missing the point in the comments. Big surprise there, I guess.

  • Homa Sapiens

    I agree with Jon above. Furthermore, the Bronzino could have had one more alteration– the pubic mound is full and rounded. Take a look at any Playboy centerfold, and you will see that the pubis is flattened, the labia should be pink and demure but visible.

  • Chillbro

    The photoshopped women are a lot more attracttive.

  • huh

    Well the shopping is a little on the malnourished side, or underformed hip side to be like the ideal standard, Its overdone. A little slimming would have made it attractive but the photoshopped women in these images would have problems bearing children and die in childbirth.

  • shotzy mcgotzy

    Disgusting. wow this is exactly what is wrong with our country. Changing a woman from the way she is supposed to look (natural and feminine), to this depiction of an un-realistic, society conjured “perfect body”.

  • Pingback: Photoshop; L’art de faire fondre les graisses! | Blanc de lune()

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