In yesterday’s post, I discussed Ingre’s “La Grande Odalisque” and its reception in 19th c. Paris. Ingre depicted the concubine unrealistically. Professionals in the field of anatomy have commented on Ingre’s work saying that the concubine’s spine would need five more vertebrae to curve in the manner in which Ingre depicts. Her arms are not of equal length. Her pelvis is not angled correctly. Of course, most of Ingre’s choices are stylistic in nature as this work is influenced by the Mannerists who preferred elongated limbs and necks. Parisians would no doubt know this as the Paris Salon was one of their sources of entertainment–“Hey, let’s go to the Salon tonight! I hear Ingre is showing his latest painting.” What the movies are to us, the Salon was to Parisians. The difference between 19th c. Parisians and 21st. c. Westerners is that the Parisians thought the Odalisque looked ridiculous, even absurd. Ingre did not represent her skin tone realistically. The shape of her body is unattainable. I’m sorry, ladies, but we are simply not going to be able to grow five more vertebrae. What’s more, the Parisians did not feel the need or the desire to try to imitate the art because the art was not imitating their lives. It was irrelevant even if was beautiful. It was not real.
This is a facet of our paradigm that needs to shift. What we see in films, advertisements, magazines, and other media has been changed so that it not only matches the current standard of ideal beauty but furthers it. Just like Ingre’s “La Grande Odalisque”, however, what we see is not real, but we interpret these images as if they are. So, when you look at any given cover of a magazine as you check out at the grocery store or the gas station, what you are taking in to your consciousness is an altered image. The model or celebrity who inspired the image upon which you gaze is beautiful no doubt, but even that individual no matter how beautiful, no matter how thin, no matter how physically fit, no matter how perfect, does not measure up to the current standard of beauty because their image has to be altered, too. Don’t you see? The current standard of beauty is impossible because the icons of beauty and physical fitness that are held up for all to emulate don’t even measure up. This kind of beauty isn’t just an illusion or a lie; it’s bondage.