Art Through Time: A Global View
The Body Compare: Can Art Contribute to the Formation of Bodily Ideals?
Can art contribute to the formation of bodily ideals?
Conceptions of bodily beauty and perfection are not universal. Rather, they are constructs of particular people at particular moments in history. Since ancient times, art has been a means of refining, codifying, and representing these ideals. Both Polykleitos’s Doryphoros and Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man offered other artists standards after which to model their own works. These works, in turn, offered audiences images by which to measure themselves.
Questions to Consider
- Both Polykleitos and Leonardo created images based on ideal proportions. What values and beliefs undergird each artist’s proportional system?
- These images are ideal constructs. Do you think that depictions of the human body can ever be “real”?
- Why do you think so many cultures represent idealized bodies in their art? Think about the idealized bodies represented in your own visual culture. Might such images have the power to influence the way we look at and think about our bodies in life?