People, Marie Claire, Allure, Seventeen, many of us, including me, have flipped through the pages of these popular magazines that are constantly telling you what’s hot in Hollywood. Whenever I look at all of the pictures, one thing always sticks out; all of the photoshopped advertisements, with “perfect” models.
Our society’s view of beauty and perfection is highly skewed. According to these commercials, the most beautiful people are tall, skinny, perfect skin, perfect hair; but the truth is that most people don’t look like the people in these advertisements, and even the pictures have added touch ups.
While studying art in the Renaissance, I realized how the art is beautiful, but is not focused on beauty or perfection. The art reflects the humanist perspective that we are all human. Therefore as humans, we have imperfections which make us unique.
In A History of Western Society, John P. McKay writes,“People were conscious of their physical uniqueness and wanted their individuality immortalized” (McKay et al 423). People were aware of their imperfections; is that what made beauty in the renaissance? Physical perfection does not mean beauty. If everyone were “perfect”, we would all look the same. The inconsistencies among us are what make us different and establishes our individuality, and that is beautiful.
In the painting, Portrait of a Carthusian, painted in 1446 by Petras Christas, the veins in his forehead are an example of human imperfection. Also, a fly at the bottom of the painting has caused much speculation of its meaning. In a smarthistory discussion by Dr. David Drogin, Dr. Beth Harris, they argue that that the fly represents death. I support this theory, because flies have a short life span, which reminds us that everything dies and we are all human (see their discussion of this painting at the smarthistory website here).
The Money Changer and his Wife, another Renaissance painting from 1514 by Quentin Metsys, the man on the left appears to be counting money, and the woman on the right is reading a religious text. However, if you look closely, it is clear that she is not focused on her book, but rather the money being handled by her husband next to her. The people in the painting are struggling with a very human issue, something very real. Although no physical imperfection is shown within their appearance, they are clearly in an imperfect world, filled with problems in humanity. (See more about this painting at the Louvre Museum’s website here).
Society’s perception of beauty is one that could take some lessons from the Renaissance. Celebrate your uniqueness, and embrace your individuality. Perfection lies within our imperfections.
Drogin, David and Beth Harris, narr. “Petrus Christus, Portrait of a Carthusian, 1446 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).” Smarthistory. Vimeo, 8/11. web. 23 Feb 2012. <http://vimeo.com/26816091>.
Guillaume, Kazerouni. “The Money Lender and his Wife.” Louvre. Musée du Louvre, n.d. Web. 24 Feb 2012. <http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/moneylender-and-his-wife>.
McKay, John P., Bennet D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare H. Crowston, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. A History of Western Society. 9th ed. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. 421. Print.
Julia Roberts Lancome Advertisement. N.d. Photograph. Chocolate CatsWeb. 3 Mar 2012. <http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ZDZFgkRyfHw/TKDZWdlt_vI/AAAAAAAAEFo/qpx6R_CD2NM/s1600/jr.png>.
Petrus Christus. Portrait of a Carthusian. 1446. Painting. WikipediaWeb. 3 Mar 2012 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Christus_carthusian.jpg/300px-Christus_carthusian.jpg
Quentin Metsys. The Money Changer and his Wife. 1514. Painting. James Long 2D-3D ConversionsWeb. 3 Mar 2012. http://www.jim3dlong.com/1514_Quentin_Metsys_The_Money_Changer_and_His_Wife-WR400.jpg
Photoshopped Model. N.d. Photograph. Hearty MagazineWeb. 3 Mar 2012. http://heartymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/model-photoshop.jpg