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What form of women’s body shape was preferred in medieval Europe?

One point that has repeatedly come up in this site’s criticism is that beauty standards fluctuate greatly, an alleged example being that overweight women were preferred in medieval Europe.  Just about everyone points out Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings featuring obese women.  What did medieval Europeans prefer in women’s looks?

There are no controlled laboratory studies from medieval Europe to help answer the question.  So people look at art.  However, when Christianity took control of Europe, artistic creativity and output went down the drain.  The little art that could flourish had to depict Biblical themes.  So the available art mostly is from the Renaissance onward.  Haven’t those who keep bringing up Rubens heard of other artists?  Here is a famous painting by Sandro Botticelli.   

The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (Florence; painted 1482–1486).

Botticelli’s Venus isn’t overweight or obese.  Next, look at some of the artwork of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Adam and Eve in paradise, Venus, and two versions of The Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Clockwise from top left: Adam and Eve in paradise, Venus, and two versions of The Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Saxony; lived 1472–1553).

What does Cranach’s artwork tell us about his preferences or those of his times?  Note the overweight Eve, the girlish torso of Venus, and Hera, Athena and Aphrodite all shown as slender women.  How do we know whether his painted women represented his preferences or those of his people/times?  Next, consider some paintings by Peter Paul Rubens.

Venus at the mirror and two versions of The Judgment of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens

Venus at the mirror and two versions of The Judgment of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens (Flanders; lived 1577–1640).

Overweight and obese women for sure, but Rubens also came up with a depiction of the presumably non-overweight Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria.  Why are Rubens’ women cited as examples of the body weight preferences of medieval Europeans?  Boticelli, Cranach and Rubens belonged to closely related Germanic populations, and they were not separated by a large amount of time.  If their women represented public preferences, what would cause such variation in closely related cultures over a few generations?  Next, look at another famous painting, by Francisco de Goya.

La maja desnuda (The nude maja) by Francisco de Goya

La maja desnuda (The nude maja) by Francisco de Goya (Spain; painted 1797–1800).

Goya was summoned by the Spanish Inquisition to explain who commissioned the “obscene” art.  I don’t know what Goya told them but he lost his job as the Spanish court painter, and this was as late as the early 19th century, though in southern Europe.  Goya’s nude maja comes close to modern erotic pinup art/photography and is the type of art that is most likely to represent the artist’s preferences or those of his contemporaries, but it doesn’t depict an overweight woman.  What were the chances of a painter coming up with something similar when the Church ruled?

Certainly, one should be careful about inferring public preferences from medieval paintings, but speaking of the influence of Christianity, guess what Christianity has to say about gluttony?  It is a sin.  So why would a largely Christian population have a favorable view of the most obvious sign of gluttony, namely excess body weight?  A careful examination reveals that excess body fat was stigmatized in medieval Europe.  From Stunkard et al.:(1, pdf)

It has been proposed that today’s harsh judgements of obese persons in the West are a modern development and that, in an earlier, more enlightened era, corpulence was highly regarded.  The paintings of fleshy women by artists such as Rubens and Renoir are often cited in support of this view.  But the products of these artists may tell us more about the interests of their patrons than about popular attitudes.  When we turn to these attitudes, a different and less flattering picture emerges, with gluttony as a key feature.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul excoriated, ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ whose end is destruction, whose god is in their belly’.  This message that served as a basis for the classic definition of gluttony which has achieved signal importance in Christian thought.  Tertullian in the third century, ascribed Adam’s eating of the apple to gluttony, which he accorded as important a role, in the Fall, as the currently more familiar sin of pride.  Both Augustine in the fifth century and Gregory I in the seventh century, incorporated gluttony into their developing definition of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Reflecting the rarity of obesity, gluttony was not associated with it during this period, but the stage was set for such linkage when enough food became available.

By the 15th century, sufficient food was available for Hieronymous Bosch to link gluttony and obesity in his portrait of The Seven Deadly Sins, a graphic parallel to the Japanese Scroll of Illness.  The picture is in the form of a large circle with seven panels radiating out from a small circle representing the eye of God, from which no sin is hidden.  Each panel is devoted to one of the Seven Deadly Sins, concretely depicted in scenes of daily life.  Representation of the sins in the same work of art reflects the view that they were transgressions that easily led from one to another, a Western view of the downward trajectory of moral failure embodied in the story of the Japanese fat woman.

The secular literature of the time continued the theological concern with gluttony and in both Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, it continued to be viewed as the basis of Adam’s sin.  But it was Shakespeare who most clearly linked gluttony, obesity and stigma.

‘Falstaff: You make fat rascals, Mistress Doll.

Doll: I make them! Gluttony and disease make them’.

Shakespeare was more than articulate on the subject of stigma, with Falstaff vilified as a ‘. . . fat-kidneyed rascal. . . fat guts. . . horseback breaker. . . huge hill of fat. . . swollen parcel of dropsies. . . stuffed cloakbag of guts. . . roasted ox with the pudding in its belly. . .’

The painting of the Seven Deadly Sins is shown below.

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Hieronymous Bosch

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Hieronymous Bosch (Netherlands; 1485). The four last things, clockwise from top left: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.  The seven deadly sins, clockwise from bottom: wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, extravagance (lust) and pride.

Those who have been trumpeting Rubens’ women should ask themselves why would a largely observant Christian population hold in high regard a condition that results from a deadly sin and makes the sinner Hellbound?  And try to think about medieval attitudes.  Current Christian attitudes are different.  America is awash in gluttony, but the clergy don’t condemn it; the number of obese Christians attending Church is a sight to be seen; and sometimes the clergy are obese, yet the Church goers have no problems being led by one who has reserved a spot in Hell.

The preferences regarding women’s face/body shape held by medieval Europeans were most likely similar to those of modern Europeans as revealed by controlled laboratory studies, not observations such as the looks of high-fashion models.

Then we also have the following from Singh et al.:(2, pdf)

‘Good gene’ mate selection theory proposes that all individuals share evolved mental mechanisms that identify specific parts of a woman’s body as indicators of fertility and health.  Depiction of feminine beauty, across time and culture, should therefore emphasize the physical traits indicative of health and fertility.  Abdominal obesity, as measured by waist size, is reliably linked to decreased oestrogen, reduced fecundity and increased risk for major diseases.  Systematic searches of British literature across the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries reveal that a narrow waist is consistently described as beautiful.  Works in ancient Indian and Chinese literature similarly associate feminine attractiveness with a narrow waist.  Even without the benefit of modern medical knowledge, both British and Asian writers knew intuitively the biological link between health and beauty.

The authors found few references that referred to plump women in a romantic context, but none of these mentioned enlarged waists.  So we have some evidence that overweight women were not generally preferred between the 16th and 18th centuries in Britain, but the shortcoming of the article by Singh et al. is illustrated by the following excerpts:(2)

If universal mental mechanisms equating fertility and health with feminine beauty have indeed evolved, then artists and writers in past and present societies should describe narrow waists as beautiful.

The finding that the writers describe a small waist as beautiful suggests instead that this body part—a known marker of health and fertility—is a core feature of feminine beauty that transcends ethnicmorphological differences and cultures. Our study suggests that in spite of variation in the description of beauty, the marker of health and fertility—a small waist—has always been an invariant symbol of feminine beauty.

There are cultures, none addressed by Singh et al.,where plump women are considered attractive, as in some African(3, pdf) and Pacific(4, link) populations.  When plumpness of women is desirable, the preferred shape presumably more often comprises of hips wider than the waists in front view instead of an apple-shaped body, but in any case the waist would not be describable as small given the preferred women’s bulk.

So I believe the medieval Europe issue is taken care of.  Those who try to bring in cross-cultural issues involving non-European societies to critique this site should read the basic outline of cross-cultural issues here.  And I am not done with historical and cross-cultural issues; more later.     


  1. Stunkard, A. J., LaFleur, W. R., and Wadden, T. A., Stigmatization of obesity in medieval times: Asia and Europe, Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 22, 1141 (1998).
  2. Singh, D., Renn, P., and Singh, A., Did the perils of abdominal obesity affect depiction of feminine beauty in the sixteenth to eighteenth century British literature? Exploring the health and beauty link, Proc Biol Sci, 274, 891 (2007).
  3. Rguibi, M., and Belahsen, R., Fattening practices among Moroccan Saharawi women, East Mediterr Health J, 12, 619 (2006).
  4. Pollock, N. J., Cultural elaborations of obesity - fattening practices in Pacific societies, Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr, 4, 357 (1995).


It looks classy but that's not reality. I prefer nouveau art woman or arther rackham's art , slender tall woman, cute, lovely and smart

here the nouveau and rackham women.

Zonneschijn: Why don’t you learn some English so that you are able to understand what the argument is about and leave a relevant comment?

Erik : yes, I still learning english language. the challenge is to write it down what I have got in my head. nevertheless, I can read and translate english language as well.

Z, you seldom make an attempt to address the argument at hand; rather, you simply regurgitate the same material in each blog entry -- an activity otherwise known as spamming.

Erik, I think it's time you considered deleting Z's posts when they fail to contribute anything relevant.

Observer : Are u a girl that jealous the fashion model and all famous non-white women don't u ?
what I do not like on this site that is erik or whomever they are, (de wanderer, observer, sandy, bron etc. u can name all of those names( just a few bigotry people from whole world) called the fashion models masculinity. u can delet me erik if u want but I sure the person who think like u and u ( no name girl "observer") would never stay in peace. I always say I do not mind if erik or anyone else would like to promote their individual feminine beauty and in the same time. I always keeping ask erik to stop insulting the supermodels like adriana lima, angelina joli or aishwarya rai have manly features. beauty in in the eyes of beholder. I have talked to asian guys and many of them find them find the beautifull white woman like natalie glebova or jayne wissner look like a ghost with scarry eyes color. I also got dutch friend that he refuses to date with any blonde women because he find it's look unhealthy like the women. erik, observer whom ever u are? u couldn't delet majority of people on internet who looking at this site.

About the Ophelia and lady of shalott pictures above I let u see that this type of art is eternal, skinny shape woman always look pretty and attactive.

Why is a small waist considered so beautiful to most everyone?

GAH, it's like women have to be anorexic these days.

Big women are beautiful too. Queen Latifah is a goddess.

Why can't people understand that women who weigh over 160 are gorgeous too?

"GAH, it's like women have to be anorexic these days."

That's how it seems. "Normal" women are considered "Fat" (Or even worse, obese) and sickly anorexic women are considered "normal." - I honestly think larger women look much better than thin women.

The Venus picture by Boticelli is obviously masculinized. Not to mention that back then men were often depicted as very feminine...

I don't think looking at old art proves any point you make. It completely contradicts your theory on beauty. Many of the paintings painted during the Renaissance feature super feminine men or women with an androgynous twist or subtle androgynous qualities.

In response to my comment about leaving a relevant comment, the Zonneschijn clown again left a comment about skin and hair color. The interesting thing is that she considers it an insult to describe some women as masculine. Obviously she doesn’t like masculinization in women. I also do not recall describing the features of Adriana Lima, Angelina Joli or Aishwarya Rai as manly. They are not among the more feminine women, some masculinization is not the same as manly, and in many pictures Angelina Jolie and Aishwarya Rai look good to me.

Godis: You just left another useless comment. The article does not address masculinity-femininity. The article is about socially acceptable body fat levels in Medieval Europe and today. The argument is not just based on pictures, but a lot of text is cited also, and you have not disputed it. Yes, some things can be inferred from ancestral art.

This whole site is about beauty. A strong portion of this site is about supporting the idea that beauty in women is strongly correlated to femininity. You claim that as one's body fat increases, so does their masculinization. In other words a woman will look more masculine overweight, than she would underweight or obviously at just the right weight.

So with all that in mind I assume this article was to dissolve the idea that many posters here have that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These posters cite these old paintings as evidence of this claiming that back then obesity was seen as a sign of wealth and abundance.I also assume you are trying to dispell the idea that obesity was never a correlate to femininity and beauty, that as one gains more and more weight at a certain point she starts to become more and more masculine and that as the result fashion models are not masculine only because they are skinny because in fact as one gains more weight she becomes more masucline and as one loses weight she becomes more feminine.

Now, you show pictures painted by artists to prove that never was obesity a correlate to femininity, and never was obesity considered attractive. Therefore you post these paintings to show these painted women are not obese.

However, my comment reveals that despite the fact that these women are not obese they are still masculinized. So if you are studying preferences from old times and you want to make the connection: preferences back then were not very different from now because our preferences on beauty do not change because of politics, economic, or social circumstances in general.

However, although these paintings prove your point: (Obesity was never considered attractive, and beauty is indeed not in the eye of the beholder) it lacks on your other point: that femininity is a correlate of beauty in women. Because if you are using these examples as examples of beautiful women, then these women in these paintings do not fit your standards of a beautiful woman. Therefore, I don't see why you would use them.

The Venus one has does not necessarily have a feminine face, she does not have really wide shoulders but they are masculine nonetheless, her abdominal area is extremely masculine. I mean there is SOME femininity in that picture but very little. Therefore you are proving that back then men did not have preferences for obesity, however you are not proving that men had preferences for femininity, instead a strange twist of feminine and androgynous qualities.

Almost any painting I have seen from the Renaissance features either a male or female with an androgynous twist. Therefore, you can't really use those paintings to prove that masculinity makes a man more attractive and femininity makes a woman attractive. Because these paintings do not reveal that at all and dispell your theory.

Godis: Whereas you are correct that the paintings from Medieval Europe/the Renaissance paintings do not support my argument about femininity being a strong correlate of attractiveness in women, they don’t refute it either.

Consider the context. Depicting the nude form was hardly possible when the Church was powerful, and the Church limited the art to Biblical themes. Post Renaissance, the Church became less powerful, but it was still powerful enough such that if the artists depicted their nude female form as feminine, then the feminine female nude form being strongly sexually arousing to men, these paintings would be labeled as catering to prurient interests and the artists would face prosecution.

You surely wouldn’t expect Medieval artists to depict nude forms of physiques as in these paintings by Alberto Vargas. Note also the cited example of the nude maja by Francisco de Goya, which was painted around 1800. De Goya got in trouble with religious authorities for depicting obscenity.

There are two additional issues. The women painted by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni are very muscular, and their breasts look like bad breast implants. Michelangelo was a homosexual and presumably using male figure models to draw female nudes. Some artists may also have used female prostitutes as nude figure models, and female prostitutes tend to be disproportionately physically masculinized.

Now, the other issues. I have not claimed that as one’s body fat increases in women, so does masculinization. Decreasing body fat levels below a range and increasing it above this range will tend to be correlated with increased masculinization in women.

Regarding beauty being in the eye of the beholder, this is true but with respect to beauty, most people see through the same eyes.

Goya's La maja desnuda is hardly a pin up but it's said be the first painting to show pubic hair, that's what is likely to have caused the fuss. His portrait of Wellington is totally different to every other. Maybe he just liked being different. Maybe Rubens' women are overweight because they are supposed to be mothers of children seen in the picture. From what I have seen of the erotic art of olden days the women were portrayed as chubby, upper classes probably were overweight considering the way they are known to have ate at banquets.

I think that the female ideal has remained pretty much the same. When you look at art there is an ideal throughout time that seems to be rather static. White, very fair skin and blonde or reddish-blonde hair are two attributes that reappear over and over in Western art. Men are often portrayed as dark-haired and with tanned skin, whereas women closely resemble Nordics. The soft, curvy, very fair-skinned, blonde woman seems to be the ideal, generally speaking.

This 100BC greek sculpture could have portrayed a woman of today. She has a soft and curvy, but still toned body;


The female body in art is soft, glowing and pearly. She often has soft curves, well-developed hips and a little tummy, probably symbols of femininity and fertility.

The breasts were not particularly large, maybe because of decency concerns (the male sexual organ was also often portrayed as very small in nude art). The waist was not always so tiny, so this wasn't very important, it seems, in nude art. Rather interesting, since corsets and a tiny waist was important for women in upper social classes. Maybe a somewhat larger waist was a symbol of being free and uninhibited, since strict rules of society made women wear corsets.

Overall, the ideal female was healthy, well-nourished, sometimes plump and sometimes more gracile, but rarely lacking curves, softness and overall femininity and grace. In other words, the very opposite of today's gay fashion designer ideal.

Regarding Rubens, one has to remember that he also painted very robust and extremely manly men, so his women suddenly appear more feminine in comparison. He also painted women without the rolls of body fat, as seen here;


His very masculine men are in proportion to the females in his art;


Rubens and his wife. Here the contrast to the nude paintings is very obvious. Very strict clothes and an "encased" body.


Another Rubens portrait;


Botticelli was rumored to be interested in men. Still, his women are very elegant, sweet and with a unique grace. Often blonde or red haired, and with very fair skin;



Here are some examples of women portrayed in art.

16th century;









17th century;


18th century;


19th century;





20th century;


"Regarding Rubens, one has to remember that he also painted very robust and extremely manly men, so his women suddenly appear more feminine in comparison. He also painted women without the rolls of body fat, as seen here;"


17th century art;


18th century art;


Can you all at least think about who was producing art for whom? Look at THE SOCIAL PRODUCTION OF ART. Most art, if not all, in the 16th century was produced for people who commissioned it: think people who could afford face-lifts, the equal of which in the 16th century was to have an artist paint them as they wished to look. In a sense, the argument in the paper is moot if this reality is not factored in in some way. Otherwise, this is mostly dribble. A good effort though I do not get the point as a passersby.

Hello, Erik. I found this thread very interesting and I must admit that I had missed something like this here before (apparently I hadn't simply found it). I have studied History and Archeology, but I also teach Art History to undergraduates and they all have this misconception that artists in the last centuries liked fat or overweight women. The women you show here happen to be pretty fair representatives of men's preferences among Europeans in those centuries, no matter if in Italy (Botticelli), Germany (Cranach) or Spain (Goya). Rubens was much more the exception than the rule and the fattest women he painted still look much more like a next door "fatty" than like an obese woman.
Another thing that I find fascinating about this women is that their breasts are always very small in proportion to their bodies. Of course they're high and rounded, but they don't look at all like play-boy models, do they? The preference for very big breasts is a new phenomenon of the 1950s. Before, reasonably small but still noticeable breasts were a sign of youth and virginity. Women with big breasts were considered vulgar and those were attributes often connected to women of the lower classes.

Markus: I hope you educate your students about your improved understanding. It is not just examples of the paintings that are inconsistent with an alleged preference for overweight female bodies, but also writings that show that there was stigma against obesity, one of the reasons for which was that it was a clear sign of the deadly sin of gluttony.

On the other hand, the depiction of breasts in classical paintings does not allow us to infer that a preference for pinups with big breasts is a modern phenomenon. There is an obvious erotic element to bare female breasts, which can be minimized by either small breasts or large-saggy/wrinkled/misshapen/malformed breasts. So if you are going to depict nude or semi-nude slender or normal women and the Church is powerful, you have no choice but to minimize the erotic element by painting small breasts. Now, there were surely cases where the nude model used by a painter had small breasts or was a man who was painted as a woman. But if medieval artists had enough freedom, I am positive that a number of them would have produced paintings along the lines of modern pinup art, where women with large, well-formed and perky breasts are depicted often.

There is also no apparent reason to believe that large breasts in the absence of obesity would be considered vulgar [pre 1950s] outside a Christian [or similar] cultural environment, controlling for how they are displayed.

Of course, obesity was seen as a sign of sin and corruption and in these centuries in which obesity was rare even among wealthy individuals, it was often simply a symptom of some inherited disease and therefore unattractive.

About the breasts, I have to partially disagree with you. "Large-saggy/wrinkled/misshapen/malformed breasts" were indeed used to represent unattractive or sinful women (witches, prostitutes) or even the impersonation of certain sins and vices, as seen in romanic and gothic capitels in medieval churches. But big or "full", well formed breasts were allowed in a religious context, for instance in the form of a Roman Charity or Carità romana or a Virgo lactans (Mary breast-feeding the Christ Child). An that is the point of this question: For men in the Ancient and Medieval Europe, fuller or bigger breasts meant that a woman was not a virgin (not to marry) because she was probably a mother.

In Ancient Greece, that is in a non Christian or pre-Christian context, depictions of beautiful, young women also had proportionally small breasts (let's say most of them would have a B-cup), a small waist or at least a narrow rib-cage and rounded hips. Those were the women that inspired European art from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century.

About the vulgarity of big breasts, usually beautiful women of a higher status in medieval lyric or novels are depicted as being somehow gracile, thin or even smallish and curvacious women only appear in satires or obscene stories, representing women of the lower classes, usually rustic countrywomen or innkeepers.

I also have a preference for slightly bigger breats myself, but when I see the depiction of those high, firm, rounded breasts in greek and medieval beauties I cannot imagine there was any kind of censorship behind the artists. As a matter of fact, some posters of Cranach's small-breasted, naked Venus in the tube in London were forbidden after the complaints of some parents that considered this picture to be too lascivious to be publically shown.

This was anyway a very interesting discussion!


I find your examples for the Early Modern and Modern Ages very accurate, but I have to disagree about the Greeks. Their ideal of beauty doesn't resemble the beauty of nordic women (that I admire myself) if you take a close look to ancient greek sculpture depicting female beauty. In the first place, Archeology teaches us that Ancient Greeks show, as an etnicity, a very high level of sexual dimorphism, that means, among their skeletons the difference between women and men are very exaggerated. On the other hand, people of a nordic etnicity (specially Halstatt Nordics) show the lowest sexual dimorphism among the Caucasian subraces. Second, the heads of these women are dolicocephalic (elongated), like those of the Nordics (and Western Mediterraneans, and Atlanto-Mediterraneans, etc.), but their cheek bones are wider are more robust than those of an average nordic woman (or a Western European woman in General). Furthermore, their nose bridge is high, but unlike in Nordic people it is so high that it falls staight from their forehead. And least but not last, Greek scuptures tend to have, like most Mediterranean Caucasians, more rounded eyes that Nordics (and of course much more rounded than today's Eastern Europeans).

It's true that the Greek appreciated blond hair, and some (not all) of their Gods and Godesses had blond hair, because this colour was related to the sun. Blond hair is also related to youth and innocence in Europe and specially in Southern Europe. Maybe you have noticed that there are many more blond children than adults in Italy or Spain, because their hair usually darkens with age. Anyway we shouldn't consider "blond" in the meaning it has for us as Northern Europeans, but much more in the sense of "golden" or "reddish", as you said. Some of the pictures you took would be a good examples.

But we shouldn't forget that the Greeks, like most nations until the Romans, were very xenophobic also concrening beauty. Their appreciation of more Northern features was mor or less reduced to the hair colour, and blue eyes or a fair complexion were not considered beautiful. Blue eyes were considered a sign of a coward or ignobel spirit and related to some animals with negative characteristics. The Greeks considered themselves to be the most perfect people on Earth, and lucky to live in a land in which they got the bronze complexion that made them difference from their Northern, pale, barbarian neighbors, but not as dark as the ugly Africans. Snub noses, as sometimes seen in Nordics (and much more often in Western Mediterraneans and Eastern Europeans) were considered very ugly by the Greeks, specially if they were turned up. Socrates, who was cosidered a very ugly man at his time, was depicted having such a nose.

Anyway, I don't think we should exaggerate the influence of the Greeks in our beauty standards, trying to defend that the Greeks (or the Japanese or whoever) actually prefered Nordic features to their own, because this is not true and, esentally, it shouldn't matter what other peoples prefere when discussing Northern European beauty.

women with a small waist, but other wise curvier exterior, such as big breasts and hips are considered more lovely than woman who weigh over 160 pounds and don't have a waist at all because; women with hour glass figures have higher amounts of estrogen, and are usually more fertile than women who don't. and by instinct men are usually attracted to women with higher amounts of estrogen, which shows up in there figure. media's promotion of the tall, skinny, no curves look, may fool women into thinking that, that is the way they should look; but you can't fool male instinct, and if you look at the swimsuit issue at by maxim, or old pinups, you will find curves incorporated with a small waist, these are the women men usually like to look at. women who are obese, either don't have a healthy diet, don't exercise enough, or have a thyroid problem; all of these equal an unhealthy body, which is unattractive.

oh yeah, and the "anorexic" models on runway, are kept skinny, not because it is considered beautiful, but because the designers and fashion business keep them skinny so as to keep the audience and potential buyers looking at the artfully designed clothes and not the distracting curves of the super model beneath. so basically they purposefully make the women "unnatractive" so that all the attention is on there cloths.

I'm not saying that the long and skinny look isn't attractive, i think that tall thin women are quite elegent and regal looking, but some models on the runway truly are anorexic and unhealthy. i think the look is pretty when it is natural. but i don't think it is possible to find a tall skinny women , who doesn't wish she had more curves.

I enjoyed this article! beautiful paintings, and unique information; thanks for making it!

It is highly likely that Botticelli's Venus was modeled by a man as was often practiced at the time.

And I certainly have never heard of the alleged notion that bigger women were favoured in medieval Europe. Never. I have heard that small breasted women were favoured.

I think these people have been mistaken, it is during the 1600s that a more plumper figure was admired - not grossly overweight of course.

I also do not think that Eve is overweight; just poorly drawn. And I believe that medieval society was fascinated with a nubile young body verging upon childish because simply that was when a woman was typically considered a marriage prospect.

Furthermore, Eleanor of Aquitaine was considered beautiful despite her age during the end of her time.

Beauty is the eye of the beholder sure, but there are always those who wish to create an observable trend of the changing female body and link it back to art. I am sure its a place of future study, but I am not sure we can really treat art to being such a reputable source of the study of beauty (as you have said in your above article)

But your article made me wild. Absolutely wild.

I think you are mistaking plump with fat, overweight with obese and other contentions. I suggest you reconsider your own beliefs upon the subject before you make such an argument. I find myself wondering if you had an axe to grind yourself rather than finding your approach enlightening.

We both mention that Art may not be reputable, and so you turn to Christianity? The bible names gluttony as a sin yes but an equally and religious fervent society such as England in the late 1600s found the plumper figure to be beautiful. I think we all know that a lot is said in the bible and many is not taken up, and many beliefs existed at the time that didn't originate from the Bible. Gluttony is not merely of food may I say, even though you may want to be literal to make your argument stronger.

And how possible would it have been then to grow obese? Medieval Europe was typically a place where only the extravagantly rich ate well, and certainly not as well as their predecessors.

What "science" (as in frequently tested in a laboratory) has shown many new researchers about the topic of beauty is that generally the more identifiably female the female is, the beautiful the female body will be to a typical man. So an impossibly small waist (physically impossible) was more attractive than a small waist, and than a normal waist provided the body swung their hips when they were walking. Not to mention this is only generally.

Non-European cultures had a HUGE affect on Medieval Europe. Think of the Crusades and the stories of plump evidently Lebanese women who were often spoken of as beautiful. It is wrong not to include non-European ideas of beauty. Furthermore, Europe is not a singular society. They had differing ideas of beauty; from Spain to the beginning of the Urals beauty had differences.

I suggest you get off your high horse about gluttonous parishners going to burn in hell and learn to spread some understanding.

This arugment is childish. Each individual finds beauty in different shapes and sizes. At times, what one finds desirable to the touch is not what they find beautiful to the eye. Trying to stifle ones opinion or voice does little to promote the understanding of the topic at hand.

i wish people would understand that :\
but nope, all that matters is being a size 0, with constricted organs and weak hips that make conceiving impossible.
yeah, the norm in fashion is half-hot, but check the hips and tits on chubby chicks <3

Beauty is the burden of the spirit, some long to possess it and those who do have it in abundance take it for granted use it to position themselves higher in society. It's hard to look past because we're human, trapped in a body that we did not choose, forced to struggle between the instincts of our animalistic selves and the true being we are inside. Thin is beautiful, fat is beautiful, the argument will never end until science begins to genetically alter us to maximize the potential of the human body. We don't take beauty with us when we go, it doesn't even last till the end of our life here on earth yet it seems to be the most wanted thing in our society. It's our need to procreate and push the human race along (sex) that drives our small human minds and makes us want the beauty that gives us the option to choose the best mate to do so. Subconsciously that's what brought me to this site, attempting to validate my own beauty through Rubens paintings, the hope that my beauty is valued, or at least was at some point in time. I'm not going to argue that fat is beautiful, some feel that way but i know that most do not, especially as an apple shape. But that is the body my soul has been given and in the end it wont matter. For now i'll continue to struggle between the needs of my human body, the fight against it to obtain the beauty that society values, and my inner self that longs for unity between my body and soul.

Hi friend, What do think about WILLA HOLLAND, is she feminine? she looks gorgeous to me.

Another question, I would like to know if a woman's femininity is always associated with beauty and masculinity means ugliness.

Thank you very much, my best regards.

could you ever write about Kate Upton? I wonder if you think she is beautiful or not. Evaluate her facial features and body!!

I wonder if anyone would like to look at or to see what you are all talking about - the proper, real explanation!

Very interesting post! I wrote down some quotes from it. Especially the part about "Church goers have no problems being led by one who has reserved a spot in Hell" :)

Nouveau art woman depicted as slender?
Google Alfons Mucha.
Sure they were not quite fat
but definitely not slender.

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