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The Female Form: 1900-2000 One Hundred Years of Dips and Curves

Face of the Year International Beauty Contest

The Stirring of Sleeping Beauty

Modern Standards of Beauty: Nature or Nurture

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Venus, From Fertility Goddess to Sales Promoter

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All Ah We is One Family

Skin Texture and Female Facial Beauty

 

 
Looking at a Picture, Looking at a Person

        From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Can Be Made From the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made.

-         IMMANUEL KANT      

         My friend sits before me. On the wall behind her the reproduction of a Picasso painting hangs. Although familiar to me, the painting remains riveting. My gaze returns repeatedly to follow the contours of the pictured face, a flat, flesh-colored horizontally oriented oval dominated by prominent lips and one tremendous egg-like eye, an unceasingly fascinating visual site.

         But my look does not similarly linger on the face of my friend. She was born with a type of dwarfism: in addition to lower limbs too short for walking, she has the physiognomy characteristic of this condition. In appearance startlingly similar to the one in the painting, my friend's face is a fleshly broad-foreheaded triangle, flattened so that it seems much like a picture plane, dominated by enormous doe eyes.2 When her face is in profile, one eye appears to occupy almost the whole upper halfofher head, very much like the immense eye in the profiled painted face.

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         I am drawn to dwell on the face in the painting, yet my eyes avert from the real face, even though it is closer to me. I regard the beauty of the painting, glance elsewhere in the room, anywhere other than at the face of my friend. Although both are in the room facing me, in an important sense the person and the painting are not equally visible to me.By looking away rather than seeing my friend, I make her invisible. While doing so, I condemn myself for joining in a visual practice that sustains the stigma our culture imposes on impaired bodies. Not beinglooked at isolates people with physical anomalies, forestalling interpersonal connectedness and distancing them from social participation. Yet despite my self-indictment, my gaze is influenced not by where moral reflection advises me to look, but by the proximity ofan object I don't want to see. Beauty matters, as does its absence, for moral as well as for aesthetic reasons .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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