View Full Version : Embodying Timeless Beauty

6th January 2012, 16:21
<br>As this site has often asserted, today's plus-size models embody the ideal of full-figured feminine beauty that was celebrated in Western art from the dawn of time.

Intriguingly, a Paris museum devoted to the work of a celebrated 19th-century painter recently undertook a project which vividly underscores this fact.<p><center>* * *</center><p>Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Christian religion will know the tale of the beheading of John the Baptist at the hands of King Herod, spurred on by his consort, Herodias:

Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of <strong>Herodias</strong>, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

On Herod’s birthday the <strong>daughter of Herodias</strong> danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. <strong>Prompted by her mother</strong>, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, <strong>who carried it to her mother</strong>.
Throughout the centuries, artists often depicted the said Herodias as an archetypically sinful, wicked woman, selfish enough to wish for a man's death to suit her own purposes, but possessed of beauty so darkly alluring that she could enslave the heart of a king.

One of the most striking depictions of Herodias is this 1887 <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/henner01.htm" target="_blank">masterpiece</a> by the Academic Classicist painter Jean-Jacques Henner. Observe how much she resembles a present-day plus-size model, one with a genuinely curvaceous physique. Her arms, attractively full and dimpled at the elbows, exhibit the soft, contoured shape that derives from indulgence, not exertion. She is amply buxom and has a visibly swell of roundness at the waist. Her reverse-view curves appear generous as well. In her choice of gown, she confirms the ideal wardrobe choice for full-figured models: strapless and sleeveless. The dress is cut low to reveal an abundant quantity of her décolletage, while the close fit at the ample waist reveals her well-fed physique. The fabric's colour betokens her character--red being the archetypal hue of sin and passion. Her tresses are long and luxuriant. In every way, she appears to be a vain seductress, given to lavish self-indulgence, confident in the power of her luscious beauty to secure her whatever she desires. Her gaze indicates that she is completely untroubled by her crime.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner//henner01r.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>On December 1st, 2011, as described in <a href="http://www.henner-intime.fr/2011/12/a-travers-le-regard-de-henner/" target="_blank">this</a> account, the Henner Museum in Paris staged an exhibition titled <i>Through the Eyes of Henner.</i> For this event, the museum commissioned the creation of a series of photographs that would, via contemporary models and skilful photography, closely reproduce the artist's paintings in look and atmosphere.

For the show's unveiling, visitors were invited to tour the museum and meet these "living pictures" in person, with the models in question posing right next to their photographs, both set alongside the source paintings.

As you can see, the Henner Museum's recreation of <i>Herodias</I> is astoundingly successful. The original masterpiece hangs on the wall, the contemporary photograph sits on an easel, and the model stands to the right--platter and severed head in hand. She resembles Henner's original down to the smallest detail, sharing her lusciously full arms and buxom voluptuousness. Like Henner's biblical temptress, she has the exact appearance of present-day plus-size fashion model.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01c.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01d.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>A different angle shows that she also possesses the seductive swell of roundness that distinguishes Henner's <i>Herodiade.</I> The most popular of today's full-figured models (e.g. Sophie, Kelsey, Katherine, Mayara, Lindsey) exhibit generous midriffs such as hers.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01j.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01m.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Yet another angle illustrates how her auburn tresses tumble down her back in a luxurious profusion.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01f.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01g.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Observe the sensual swell of flesh escaping the confines of the gown at the model's upper back--another alluring characteristic that she shares with many top plus-size models. Such physical details of softness are expressions of ideal feminine beauty.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01h.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01i.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Here is the actual photograph that the <a href="http://www.musee-henner.fr/en/home" target="_blank">Henner Museum</a> created to replicate the <i>Herodias</I> painting. As the preceding images demonstrate, the opulent shape of the model's physique was not generated in Photoshop, but taken from life.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01p.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01q.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Could there be a more telling visual to indicate that today's living, flesh-and-blood plus-size models bring to life the timeless ideal of full-figured beauty than this side-by-side comparison? Henner's 19th-century masterpiece is on the left, while the present-day photograph, depicting a living full-figured model, is on the right.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01n.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/artists/henner/henner01o.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Given the astounding success of this then-and-now comparison, it would be extremely beneficial for today's plus-size fashion industry to reference the great artworks of the past, which universally celebrate generously proportioned womanly beauty, in creating full-figured fashion campaigns and photoshoots.<p><center>* * *</center><p>The beauty of today's plus-size models, with all of the visible characteristics of well-fed femininity that they possess--their buxom contours, full arms, sumptuous waists, and generous reverse-view curves--was represented in Western art as the ideal of female attractiveness throughout history. And the history of Western art is, in all things, an unerring guide to escaping the malaise of modernity and rediscovering the true path of cultural greatness.

Plus-size beauty is neither "alternative beauty" nor merely "another kind of beauty"; rather, it is <i>beauty itself,</i> the very essence of it, as viewed by every great culture throughout history.

Plus-size models bring to life the beauty that is encoded in the supreme aesthetic achievements of Western man. They are a lodestone that can restore the ideal that gave the West form and purpose throughout its history.

They are living works of art.

- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/" target="_blank">The Judgment of Paris Pinacotheca</a>

8th January 2012, 08:40
Oh, my, with her luscious figure and long, fiery hair, the model is gorgeous. Both she, and Henner's Herodias, convincingly create the impression of a carnal temptress. No waif model could create such an alluring image of womanhood. No wonder Henner (like all of history's great painters) depicted the plus-size female figure when he wished to illustrate intoxicating seductiveness.

Herodias in her red gown reminds me a little of Sophie Sheppard in her Jill Alexander dress from Curves in Couture (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=2349) :


There is the same depiction of buxom curves, full arms, and roundness at the waist. Sensual and gorgeous.

Given the astounding success of this then-and-now comparison, it would be extremely beneficial for today's plus-size fashion industry to reference the great artworks of the past, which universally celebrate generously proportioned womanly beauty, in creating full-figured fashion campaigns and photoshoots.
I agree. These artworks were created to idealize full-figured femininity and to present plus-size women as goddesses of absolute beauty. Today's plus-size models would be similarly ennobled via such themes and visual environments, updated for the present day.

9th January 2012, 19:33
<br>Apart from occasional one-offs, at least one substantial precedent for such a campaign can be found in the annals of the plus-size fashion industry.<p><center>* * *</center><p>Given the ongoing disappointments of Elena Mirò's biannual fashion shows, which limit themselves to faux-plus fraudulence, it's easy to forget that there was a time, a decade ago, when the Italian company was the most size-celebratory and visionary retailer in the industry.

Everything started to go wrong with Elena Mirò when it decided to stage its first plus-size fashion show and elected to go the faux-plus route. The company has never been the same since.

In her memoir <i>Hungry</I> (which we reviewed <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=1609" target="_blank">here</a>), Crystal Renn outed the mentality of the people who stage this biannual runway disappointment:

One woman working at the [Elena Mirò fashion show] fitting was critical of my body, eyeballing me with a look of--was that loathing? She was eyeing my thighs the way you might look at roadkill. I thought maybe I was being paranoid until I heard her bark at another girl, "Don't you dare order pasta at dinner!" I knew I wasn't being paranoid when she ordered a third girl: "Lift up your shirt. I want to see how f** you are." (199-200)
Alas, given the absurdly skinny size of the so-called "plus-size" models that many retailers employ, this stylist's mentality seems to be commonplace in the full-figured fashion industry. No wonder Elena Mirò hasn't featured a genuinely curvaceous model (i.e., over a U.S. size 14) in its advertising in years.

But regardless of its recent history, Elena Mirò was once the most innovative full-figured fashion marque in the world. Long-time readers of this site will fondly remember the acclaimed Elena Mirò campaign of 2003, titled "Forever Beautiful," which represented the zenith of the company's pro-curvy efforts.

As <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/archive-em.htm" target="_blank">reported</a> on our forum at the time, the "Forever Beautiful" promotion took masterpieces depicting full-figured feminine beauty from the history of Western art and situated the company's face (and figure), Barbara Brickner, a curvaceous size 14/16, within these works.

In the best-known example, Elena Mirò referenced Charles Natoire's painting <i>The Awakening of Venus</I> (1741),<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/natoire01.htm" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/natoire/natoire01.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>inverted it, and replaced one of Venus's attending nymphs with Barbara.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/poster01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/em00a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>In another instance, Elena Mirò worked with Jean-Baptiste Regnault's <i>The Three Graces</I> (1793),<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/regnault01.htm" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/pinacotheca/regnault/regnault01b.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>and inserted Barbara in place of one of the trio.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/em01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/em01a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Elena Mirò took this project very seriously. It even commissioned a number of contemporary artists to create paintings depicting full-figured feminine beauty and staged a bona fide art show across various locales in Italy, featuring its own advertising posters--into which Barbara had been introduced--alongside the contemporary art works that had been commissioned for the project.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/em03.jpg"></center><p>The rest of the images in the series--for there were several more--exhibited various degrees of artistic success.

Nevertheless, however inspired the Elena Mirò concept may have been, the Henner Museum's project is even more subversively pro-curvy. In many of the artworks that Elena Mirò referenced (not shown above), the physiques of the female subjects weren't even visible, nor was Barbara's in the revised images. But in the case of <i>Herodias,</I> the Henner Museum focussed on a canvas that clearly depicts a plus-size female figure, and in the recreation of the image, the model's curves are equally visible. Indeed, one might have thought that the physique in the updated image had simply been replicated via Photoshop, so closely does it resemble Henner's original. But no, the photographs from the exhibition at the Henner Museum demonstrate that the model is a flesh-and-blood woman, one whose figure closely resembles that of Henner's biblical temptress.

Imagine if today's plus-size models actually were to step into frames of history's greatest depictions of full-figured beauty. Imagine if Katherine Roll were to embody a Titian goddess, or Sophie Sheppard were to personify Helene Fourment in a Rubens masterpiece. The resulting images would stagger the imagination in the splendour of their beauty. Present-day full-figured fashion models would be presented as the goddesses they are, and the greatest masterpieces of Western history would, in turn, be revealed as celebrations of achievable female physiques--both ideal and real, celestial and human, romantic fantasy and fleshly reality.

By stepping back into the past, we escape the dystopia of the present and discover the way forward to a richer, nobler future. A world of ideal beauty once existed as a physical reality, and such a world can exist once more.

- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/archive-em.htm" target="_blank">"Forever Beautiful"</a>

10th January 2012, 09:37
I will never forget those Elena Miro campaigns. That particular promotion was a true work of art, literally and figuratively.

How disappointing that Elena Miro turned from creating gorgeous campaigns such as that, with a stunning, size-14/16 goddess, to staging runway shows with thin-looking models. What was the point?

If only Elena Miro had cast its runway shows the way FFFWeek or FWPS or Curves in Couture have done, with true plus-size models. Then the results would have been phenomenal, and the whole fashion would would have had to reconsider its view of the fuller female figure.

The comments by the Elena Miro fashion-show stylist, which Crystal Renn reported, are especially offense.

Alas, given the absurdly skinny size of the so-called "plus-size" models that many retailers employ, this stylist's mentality seems to be commonplace in the full-figured fashion industry.
I agree, and that is so infuriating. What are people like this doing working in <i>plus-size</I> fashion? Why are they hired? Why are they allowed to hold the industry back with their anti-plus views?

If they dont like the larger female body, they should work in minus-size fashion, where the aesthetic will suit their tastes. At the very least, someone who works in the plus-size industry should demonstrate a love of plus-size beauty and a sincere appreciation for visible, womanly curves.