As of today, December 12th, this site has been on-line for seven years. And perhaps the most appropriate way in which to mark the occasion is to pay tribute to one of the most remarkable incarnations of plus-size beauty in the history of Western art, a goddess whose loveliness was immortalized for all time in a masterpiece
by the Spanish Romantic painter, Francisco Goya.
We know very little about Doņa Isabel de Porcel, the Spanish noblewoman who sat for the most famous portrait of Goya's career. But we do know the effect that her voluptuous beauty has had upon everyone who has ever laid eyes on her.
The Italian art portal, Artonline.it, offers the following commentary about this work:
The black of the dress and transparency of the veil accentuate the contrast of the luminous décolleté and sensual face. The fleshy mouth, large eyes, even and bold features give the figure an elegance that is both simple and sensual. In this painting the artist manages to convey the passionate vitality of the woman.
The writer couldn't help but use the word "sensual" twice in the same paragraph--and who could blame him?
The painting was recently part of an exhibit titled "Favourite Smiles in Art," and the British newspaper The Guardian also penned a description that features the word "sensual" twice in three sentences, similarly refers to her "vitality," and twice mentions "flesh" and "fleshy," as if, at a second glance, her fleshiness is even more visible than at first.
Doņa Isabel's smiling lips are belied by her anxious and pensive eyes. Her mind must be elsewhere. She is clearly a sensual being, an active participant in the contest of passion, not a mere passive object of the gaze. Isabel de Porcel is wearing an elegant and fashionable 'maja' dress from her native Andalusia. The black dress accentuates the contrast with her luminous flesh, her sensual face, her fleshy mouth, her large eyes, her clear beauty. Underneath the aristocratic appearance there is vitality and personality.
The Web Gallery of Art, another respected art portal, calls her attire "madly flattering" in its snugness (making an important point about the appeal of the ultra-close fit on the fuller female figure), and refers approvingly to an enchanting physical detail that confirms this goddess as a distincly plus-size beauty:
Doņa Isabel wears the dress of a maja - a style originally associated with the demimonde of Madrid, but in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries adopted by ladies of fashion as a token of Spanish patriotism, and also, no doubt, because its black lace mantilla and high waist were madly flattering, as we can see here. Goya emphasizes Doņa Isabel's best features, her eyes and her fresh colouring . . . the incipient double chin adds to her youthful charm.
What is particularly telling about these passages is their approving descriptions of the Doņa's visible softness. The writers find themselves intoxicated by her beauty precisely because she is full-figured, not despite this fact.
This point is echoed by Dr. B. Smedley, in an even more passionate review of this masterpiece, for the popular Web log, "The Social Affairs Unit":
One doesn't have to take much of a leap of imagination to suspect that Goya enjoyed this particular assignment perhaps a little bit more than Dona Isabel's husband might have liked. Goya had, as do many men, a particular 'type' that appealed to him. Perhaps Dona Isabel approached it more closely than most. At any rate, what was meant to be a portrait has been elevated, here, into the stuff of full-bodied sexual fantasy the slightly damp-looking curls, the flushed cheeks, the plump bosom only just encased within the black lace shawl, the remarkably full lips and, most notably, those impossibly huge, luminous . . . eyes.
Again, note that his adjectives ("full-bodied" "plump") all clearly affirm the well-fed richness of the Doņa's figure, but acknowledge these as the very qualities that make her so irresistible.
And in his recently-published biography of the painter, titled Francisco Goya: A Life, author Evan S. Connell affirms her beauty in that very personal way that the Doņa's admirers cannot help themselves from adopting:
The reason for mentioning this portrait is her voluptuous beauty. Women, most women, after one hostile glance say she's f_t. Men who come upon Doņa Isabel for the first time stop as though hit with a club. She's two centuries old. Nobody cares. Goya saw a radiant succulent woman who enjoyed being a woman who enjoyed men and that is what he painted. Two centuries from now Doņa Isabel will stop traffic.
Again, note the writer's specific reference to her opulent appearance (a "radiant succulent woman"--breathlessly written, with no comma), and his peremptory defensive strike against those who dare to dispute her beauty.* * *
The descriptions that this masterpiece evokes catalogue the true qualities of a plus-size goddess: proud, vital, passionate, aristocratic, soft, sensual, languid, pampered and irresistibly spoiled, extremely conscious of her own allure, and possessing a consummate fashion sense that enables her to adorn her sumptuous figure in a way that is "madly flattering"--i.e., stylish and chic, but vividly accentuating and emphasizing her curves.
It is no wonder that the mass media not only suppresses plus-size beauty, but also obliterates from public view any goddesses who possess the character attributes noted above, choosing instead to present vulgar caricatures who are either empty-headed, or consumed by self-loathing, or both.
A true plus-size goddess is more than just a challenge to modern notions of beauty. She is, by her very existence, a repudiation of the entire value-system on which the modern world is based, with its myth of uniform "equality" (i.e., sameness), and its remorseless levelling agenda.
A plus-size goddess inspires an intense longing in mankind, a quest for something better, a yearning after a transcendent goal. She shows us that there is more to life than mere existence, that we are meant to pursue loftier ends than merely determining how to distribute our rations. She reminds us that if humanity concerns itself with nothing beyond the welfare of the lowest common denominator, it sentences itself to collective slavery.
A plus-size goddess proves that there are living deities among us (with herself preeminent among them), that humanity itself has heights, and dignity, and splendour, and majesty. She compels us to strive for more, because she herself perpetually wants--and deserves--more.
You can see it in Goya's painting: in her breathtaking self-assurance, the Doņa tells us that, great as her painter may have been, the greatest moment of his life was right there, in her presence, when she allowed him the privilege of preserving her beauty for all time--her beauty, and the insatiable desires and vital passions that animated it.
The aesthetic restoration is bringing back more than just the ideal of beauty of which mankind has been deprived, for far too long. It is bringing back the Faustian glory of the Western tradition, for which that beauty-ideal served as the utmost goal, throughout history.