How the Demography of Beauty Has Transformed Over Time
Beauty is commonly defined as an aesthetic feature of things that makes these things aesthetically pleasurable to see. These things include sunsets, landscapes, humans and beautiful works of art. Beauty, along with art and beauty, is the most important theme of aesthetics, among the most important branches of science. It was noted by Goethe that “there is nothing so beautiful as the human face.”
Facial expression, posture, lighting, and jewelry all contribute to the emotional and physical meaning of facial beauty. Aesthetics majors research facial expression through a variety of methods such as functional imaging, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and anthropological studies. Art historians study the evolution of facial expression, comparing ancient and modern beauty standards. Neurologists examine how the brain coordinates with the nervous system to define beauty. An art history major also researches historic depictions of beauty to determine cultural patterns of beauty standards.
Art Historians analyze ancient works to interpret the evolution of beauty across time. For example, paintings of Egyptian faces were found to have a wide variety of facial expressions that can be classified according to gender, societal status, or occupation. In ancient China, paintings of flowers were considered highly desirable. Through the ages, cultures around the world have valued physical appearances based on whether the person was seen as beautiful or not. Throughout recorded history, people have tried to make faces more attractive through numerous methods. In fact, in some areas of Africa, women still use cosmetics to maintain their beauty in the face of the world.
In the age of the 16th century, European artists developed what is known as the Ideal Face. This was a standardized form of beauty that differed between countries. The ideal face typically included a narrow forehead, large eyes, a slender chin, a straight neck, and a mouth that was either complete or slightly open.
After the establishment of the modern European society, the definition of beauty changed slightly but remained largely consistent between Europe and its colonies. European colonialists began taking Greek beauty for granted when it was difficult to attain, and used the Greeks as a model for how to improve other aspects of European beauty. For example, in order to obtain true Greek beauty, an art historian needs to look at both Greek culture and the societal roles that women played. In particular, the role of the Greek women was scrutinized because Greek culture believed that women were beautiful through their physical attributes as well as how they were dressed.
Today, it is very important for an art historian to look at how cultures evaluate beauty. In fact, this process takes time because each culture has differing definitions of beauty. In order to get across the point of how beauty is evaluated across different time periods and cultures, it is important for an artist to use symbolism. The use of archetypes, symbols, and pictures is essential for this process. A Greek woman could be made to wear clothes to make her appear beautiful, and an art historian could use pictures and archetypes to present this information.