FASHION HISTORYhistory

Canonical beauty: Prehistory

11.07.2017 — by Victoria Ventonni

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FASHION HISTORYhistory

Canonical beauty: Prehistory

11.07.2017 — by Victoria Ventonni

Trying to look like someone else or desire to empathize certain aspects of the person’s own body in order to be beautiful is not a modern trend. In fact, it is a very old partly psychological phenomenon. Beauty canons are often regarded as a direct consequence of the K-strategy* working. However, I would like to argue against this point of view, which has a lot of oversimplification in it.

Indeed, K-strategy has a lot to do with definition of beauty, subconsciously preventing humanity from both the overpopulation and dying out. Other factors of main importance are habitat and the leader, his taste in women if this leader is a man. Moreover, a bright personality should be taken into account, too, as the desire to be like someone mentally and sociologically reflects on the first place in the change of the style and appearance.

Beauty standards are constantly changing, differing in various societies even in a modern globalized world. We shall start with an attempt to define canonical beauty in prehistory era.

Most of art objects left from this time represent animals. In prehistorical society the study of the anatomical structure of an animal was of vital importance as the good knowledge of it could not only save life of the hunter, but also bring some food to home. The inclusion of the image of a human is quite rare, with the exception of the female imagery. All of such females are called “Venuses”.

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Vénus de Laussel – example of female in the relief

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Venus von Willendorf – example of female in sculpture

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Venus of Dolní Věstonice – example of female in ceramics

The faces of all of them do not matter, the artist’s attention is focused on their bodies, highlighting their fertility through empathizing primary and secondary sexual characteristics. The woman was, first of all, a mother, who should have made good and healthy numerous progeny and breed them until the age of maturing. These functions were accentuated by the artist and taken into account when choosing a partner by men. Moreover, these images probably had the sacral meaning, promising praising people abundant harvest and comfortable existence with enough food and less death.

Nevertheless, even at these hard for survival of the humankind times beauty canons were not the same around the globe. In Siberia, where the climate is much harsher than in Europe, where the most of curvy Venuses were found, were discovered totally different statuettes.

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Venus of Buret

Very tall and thin, probably wearing fur, without breasts, but with outlined facial features – that’s how typical (or perfect) woman looked like for our ancestors who lived there. According to the K-strategy, the imagery should have been quite the opposite as survival in northern territories was very hard and men probably needed the emphasized fertile women to make offspring and live long enough to raise it.

Even then the beauty canons varied depending on public foundations and presumably many other things about which we have no idea.

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*To discover more about K-strategy search r/K selection theory or  click here

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