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Old 17th September 2005   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default ''A shape such as in ancient pictures''

A few seasons ago, a reader of this forum came up with a rather interesting suggestion. She opined that if someone were to assemble a book featuring images of plus-size models juxtaposed with literary texts extolling Classical feminine beauty, the result would be a visual delight--and edifying, besides.

Naturally, we agreed that the concept was splendid, but lamented that the resources required to publish such a book were simply unavailable. (The same stumbling block would undoubtedly exist today.)

Nevertheless, the idea remained with us, and it came to mind again when we chanced upon the following item at an online auction house:

It is a late-1800s collection of sentimental verse set alongside reproductions of works by Angelo Asti, the famous painter of gorgeous models who exhibit the full facial features that are the hallmark of timeless beauty.

And so--just as a little experiment--we decided to assemble a similar page, featuring an image of Barbara Brickner set alongside a beloved poem of English Romanticism, penned by Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Please click on the image below to view the text at a readable size:

Incidentally, the present author confesses a particular fascination with the above image of Mrs. Brickner, because the garment has such a Classical air about it. It exhibits an organic, "linen look" (although the top is not actually made of that material), the crochet-lace embellishment under the bust resembles a folkloric design, and the cut effectively frames the model's gorgeous arms and neck. Add to that a romantic hairstyle, and most important of all, Barbara's majestic bearing, and the result is one of the most successful artwork-come-to-life images that we have ever seen. One would almost believe that it was Barbara Brickner herself who posed for Praxiteles at Cnidos in 350 B.C., when he sculpted the famous Aphrodite in marble that has survived through the ages as the feminine ideal, despite all modern efforts to diminish it.

We employed this "aged" book template simply for show, but an actual work of this nature would best be realized as a coffee-table tome, printed on glossy paper stock, featuring original images of the models in appropriately timeless settings (e.g., the locations in the "Old World" Saks catalogue, or a bridal-ad environment, such as the one that Lane Bryant featured in its incomparable Spring 2005 campaign).

The success or failure of such a book would depend on one thing alone: an aesthetically appropriate selection of images and poetry. Projects of this nature invariably fail because of the creators'/editors' indiscriminate choice of content. If the texts and images were chosen well, the final result would be a masterpiece for the ages.

Last edited by HSG : 25th September 2005 at 16:22.
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Old 14th October 2005   #2
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default Re: ''A shape such as in ancient pictures''

It's fascinating to observe the cross-pollination of ideas.

A few weeks ago, we posted the above graphic as a simple intellectual exercise, and thought no more of it.

But then, we discovered an interesting commentary about the image at one of those newest examples of virtual communication--a Web log.

In reference to the above image, the author of the log writes as follows (featuring a link to this post in her original text) :

Women who wear sizes 14 and up in a size-obsessed world now have a few more choices than the previously ghettoized Lane Bryant, thanks to HotTopic's sibling store, Torrid, although full acceptance remains a way off as the larger female body still speaks a forbidden language of ease and nurturance that is at direct linguistic odds with our mainstream language in which hard work, overachievement, and self-punishment equal virtue . . .

Yet despite the 20th century's fear of the feminine, a softer touch has entered mainstream women's fashions . . .the softer look seems to be a reaction to the times we live in. As the world about us becomes more ugly and uncertain thanks to our recklessness, we want to create beauty, as if we want to speak a softer language in a harsher world.

And the issue of turning back to beauty is featured and discussed with eloquence on the Judgment of Paris website. The site is revolutionary because the author features plus-sized models as the epitome of beauty, a daring thing to do in this age of the size-0, but in the long run, I think it's a necessary thing to do for balance the phenomena of eating disorders and hatred of the female body. A recent post on the forums caught my attention because it was about "reading" beauty: the author juxtaposed an image of model Barbara Brickner with text from a poem to create a Romantic image that was striking, dreamy, and positive. An exercise like this creates a new language for fashion in ways that feminist articles and rah-rah love-yourself positive thinking can't quite attain.

We sent the author a note of thanks for her kind words, and lo and behold, she turned out to be none other than "Kirsten"--a sometime contributor to this forum, who recently drew the fruitful Cinderella comparison in the Crystal Renn/Gaultier thread.

The relationship between language and the fuller female figure, and the challenge of cultivating a transformative discourse of size celebration, are among the core concerns of this Web project, so it was intriguing to see a visitor elaborate on these themes. And as Kirsten suggests, in order to revive the size-positive aesthetic values that reigned prior to the 20th century, a revaluation of literary values is absolutely essential.

Brilliantly Baroque Barbara at Nordstrom, Fall 2005:

Last edited by HSG : 31st October 2005 at 01:13.
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Old 14th October 2005   #3
Join Date: August 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 61
Default Re: ''A shape such as in ancient pictures''

Thank you for the "honorable mention!"

I've always found the combination of passionate text plus art to be a powerful way to communicate values and create a mood. When I saw the "simple intellectual exercise" here on this post, I was reminded of the illustrated fairy tales and poems I read as a child, and thought how story supported by a sense of archetypal, timeless beauty and wonder can inspire imgination. Somehow, the story of Cinderella wouldn't be the same if it isn't accompanied by the picture of the prince placing the slipper on her foot (or kissing her hand, as we saw in the Gaultier show photographs).
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