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Old 21st April 2006   #1
HSG
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Default Kelsey Olson: Medieval Beauty


In past discussions, we have noted how the Classical ideal of feminine beauty--personified by the goddess Venus, and embodied by Helen of Troy--was transformed from a virtue into a vice in the early Christian era, until it was restored to cultural prominence in the Renaissance.

However, because beauty is not culturally constructed, but rather, an emanation of the timeless longings of the human heart, the true feminine ideal did not disappear in the intervening centuries. Rather, it lingered as a powerful memory throughout the Middle Ages, especially in the art of poetry.

Perhaps the earliest writer in Northern Europe who revives the Classical ideal in his verses in the 12th-century French poet, Matthew of Vend˘me. In his book titled Ars Versificatoria ("The Art of Versification"), dated circa 1175, the poet sings the praises of timeless feminine beauty. And whom does he choose for the object of his encomium but . . . Helen of Troy herself. In so doing, he may have inflamed the first stirrings of desire in the medieval West to revive the Classical heritage--a desire that would eventually come to fruition in the Renaissance, the greatest rebirth of culture the world has ever known.

If we set Matthew of Vend˘me's verses alongside some recent images of Kelsey Olson--who well deserves the title of a present-day Helen of Troy--we may visualize the transcendent beauty that the poet conceived when he put pen to parchment, and brought the immortal Helen back to life in medieval Europe:

Helen's radiant beauty of face and form--hers by
Nature's gift--needs no embellishment by artifice.
Her countenance puts to shame ordinary mortal form;
Beauty beyond beauty, she shines with the grace of stars.
Such beauty, knowing no peer, despised by inferiors,
Can rightly lay claim to the praises of the jealous.
Her golden hair, unfettered by any confining knot,
Cascades quite freely about her face, letting
The radiant beauty of her shoulders reveal
Their charms; its disarray pleases all the more.
Her brow shows its charms like words on a page . . .
Her dark eyebrows, neatly lined twin arches,
Set off skin that is like the Milky Way.
Her sparkling eyes rival the radiance of the stars,
And with engaging frankness play ambassadors of Venus.
With equal candor a blush that would make the captive
Rose pay tribute suffuses her face. As it fades away,
The blush proves no enemy to her face as rose hue and
Snow-white skin
contend in most delightful combat. . . .
(st. 56)

Overcome with ardour by his own verses, and by the image of Helen that they evoke, Matthew of Vend˘me grows increasingly passionate in his praise:

The enchantment of her rose mouth pants for kisses:
. . . the delicate lips are controlled in a
Modest swelling and are formed with the honey of Venus. . . .
The smooth neck tries to outshine the snow, the dainty breast
Chides its swelling, lying modest on her chest.
(st. 56)

The next stanza, stanza 57, is even more fervent--so much so, that we dare not quote it on this forum. However, Matthew of Vend˘me makes it quite clear that his Helen of Troy is generously proportioned. He goes into rapture over particular details that sound far more poetic in the original language:

"The luscious little belly rises . . ."
"The swell of her rounded abdomen"
"Her foot is small, limbs straight, legs full . . ."

Perhaps there was a lovely young muse living in the writer's home town of Vend˘me who seemed to the poet to be nothing less than a reincarnation of Helen of Troy, and in adoration of whom he penned these lines. If so, then let us hope that the existence of goddesses such as Kelsey in our own day and age can bring about a similar renascence of the Classical ideal today, when the world so ardently yearns for its return.

- Click here to see more of Kelsey's medieval beauty at Torrid

.................

References:

Brewer, D.S. "The Ideal of Feminine Beauty in Medieval Literature." Modern Language Review 50.3 (1955): 257-69.

Matthew of Vend˘me. Ars Versificatoria. c.1175. Trans. Aubrey E. Galyon. Ames, IA: Iowa State UP, 1980.

Matthew of Vend˘me. Ars Versificatoria. c.1175. Trans. Roger P. Parr. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette UP, 1981.

Images courtesy Michael Anthony Hermogeno (www.8x10proofs.com).


Last edited by HSG : 21st April 2006 at 15:31.
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Old 21st April 2006   #2
kirsten
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Default Re: Kelsey Olson: Medieval Beauty

While reading the poem I couldn't help but think how much our recent cultural life has suffered from the lack of eloquent love poetry, stories, and songs. Not only do we need a Renaissance of timeless beauty, we also need a new generation of troubadors to sing their praises.
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Old 22nd April 2006   #3
renata
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Default Re: Kelsey Olson: Medieval Beauty

I adore the first picture most of all. Its one of my favorite Kelsey pictures, ever. She looks so soft in it, and curvier than in many of her other shots. It really fits the poem.

I would have loved a totally medieval-style photo shoot, with historic looking backgrounds and clothing, or some of the lace styles that are out there now, but Kelsey makes up for it because she really does have a timeless kind of beauty.
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Old 24th April 2006   #4
MelanieW
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Default Re: Kelsey Olson: Medieval Beauty

Quote:
Originally Posted by HSG
Such beauty, knowing no peer, despised by inferiors,
Can rightly lay claim to the praises of the jealous.
Her golden hair, unfettered by any confining knot,
Cascades quite freely about her face, letting
The radiant beauty of her shoulders reveal
Their charms...
Set off skin that is like the Milky Way.
...a blush that would make the captive
Rose pay tribute suffuses her face...
The luscious little belly rises . . ."
"The swell of her rounded abdomen"
"Her foot is small, limbs straight, legs full . . ."

Its astonishing how consistent the descriptions of ideal beauty are in all of the historical sources, from the Greeks to the Renaissance, and now here, in a poem from the Middle Ages. Long hair, fair skin, a blushing countenance, soft shoulders and limbs, full midriff, etc. Even the point about the envy that this type of beauty inspires in "inferiors" (by which I am sure the poet meant the same individuals who are todays anorexic models!). It really argues for a timeless ideal, since the details are so similar throughout the ages.

Kelsey is also on the cover of Sydneys Closet. The image is so-so, and the back view has some of the worst photoshopping Ive ever seen, but Kelsey herself looks very pretty, and other than the fact that the back is too high, its a nice dress.



Im still dying to see Kelsey in a really timeless setting, like a bridal campaign, where her medieval beauty would be matched by medieval-inspired settings. That would be a masterpiece in the making.

http://www.sydneyscloset.com

[URL edited--HSG]

Last edited by HSG : 23rd July 2006 at 03:34.
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Old 24th April 2006   #5
Relena
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Default Re: Kelsey Olson: Medieval Beauty

I love the Sydney's Closet pic- Kelsey looks like a real princess in it.
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