The female body has been a favorite subject for art and various other media for thousands of years. Take Venus, for example: The Roman goddess of love and beauty has been depicted in hundreds upon hundreds of works of art. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is arguably the most recognizable portrayal of the Goddess. With her ivory nude body frontally displayed, and her long golden-red hair strategically placed, Botticelli expertly made a pornographic image into acceptable art by depicting a goddess from antiquity. She’s so popular that Lady Gaga has worn a Birth of Venus print dress. Another recognizable Venus is Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo, if not quite as popular as Botticelli’s impossibly beautiful Venus, she remains just as recognizable due to her idealized beauty and her famous arms (or rather lack of them).
For the record, Venus de Milo really should be known as Aphrodite, as she was made by a Greek. But since Venus is the Roman equivalent of Greek Aphrodite, and the statue is better known as Venus, I will refer to her as Venus throughout this article.
Both of these works of art deserve to be remembered and admired. They are of excellent technique, aesthetically pleasing, and they serve as perfect examples of the art style in each respective era. Oh, and they have another shared similarity, besides featuring the goddess of love and beauty: the idealized female body.
There are plenty of women who nearly have the “goddess body” (but in a much more realistic, and healthy manner) in the real world. But, contrary to the Roman goddess and today’s mainstream media, the slender female form isn’t the only body type that exists, nor is it the only one worth celebrating.
Somewhere around 25,000 years ago, one of our early ancestors made a four-and-a-half inch statue. Unless you took an art history, archaeology, or anthropology course, it’s unlikely that you would have heard much about the Venus of Willendorf. Round with extravagant curves, this Venus is large for such a small figure. But she’s also beautiful, even if she looks a bit different from Botticelli’s softly perfect Venus, and Alexandros’s portrayal of the perfect female form. Indeed, the body of Venus of Willendorf has inappropriately been called “grotesquely large.”
Obviously, the body of Venus of Willendorf is exaggerated and unattainable, just like Botticelli’s breathtaking Venus. Presumedly, the Venus of Willendorf symbolized a lifestyle sought during the harsh realities of the early human: an obviously plentiful diet and most importantly, the ability to successfully bear children. She is a far cry from the fit perfection of Venus de Milo and the beauty of Botticelli’s Venus, but she is just as lovely, and just as feminine.
Just as actresses and models seen in our favorite movies and magazines have essentially the same body types (thin, often scarily so), the female subjects seen in many art pieces oftentimes have the same, monotone figures. They usually have healthy, slender bodies, or idealized, perfect forms. Obviously, it’s wonderful to see healthy female bodies in art, but the larger ladies, and specifically the Venus of Willendorf, should also be recognized and celebrated more widely by the general public.
The Venus of Willendorf is a signal that a woman’s body, apart from being sexual eye candy for the male gaze, is capable of not only producing life, but ensuring the continuity of the human species. Her large hips, breasts and booty are in every way beautiful and womanly and must be accepted and loved as much as the willowy female form.
Big, thin, small, or tall, every woman’s body is just as feminine as the last. So how about we start cherishing diversity, such as the physique that the Venus of Willendorf models? Once we learn to embrace the big women found as statutes, in paintings, magazines, and movies, we can begin to embrace the unique, curvaceous bodies of our friends, of our sisters, and of ourselves.
Photo Credit: Helix84
Photo Credit: Georgi Nemtzov Venus of Willendorf
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