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Drawing by Julie Seyler.

Drawing by Julie Seyler.


This has the potential to be a politically incorrect blog. But here goes: The New York Times reported that mannequins in Venezuela are produced according to the populace’s ideal perception of women. This means oversized bosoms, small waists and palpable hips and buttocks. In fact, in Venezuela, augmentation surgery is openly discussed and accepted, at least by the persons interviewed for the article:

Cosmetic procedures are so fashionable here that a woman with implants is often casually referred to as “an operated woman.” Women freely talk about their surgeries, and mannequin makers jokingly refer to the creations as being “operated” as well.

The article indicated some feminist outcry to the notion that perfect beauty resides in the form of an hourglass. But nothing like what would erupt in the United States should the Playboy model once again emerge as an emblem of the ideal body. I can neither pass judgment nor analyze a culture far removed from mine. But it did start me thinking about depictions of the female form.

When I wander around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am always entranced by the sculptures depicting women that have been excavated from the ancient burial sites of Greece, Mycenae and Cyprus. Some of these figurines date as far back as 4500 B.C. They are beautiful. Modern art thousands of years ago. I wander from gallery to gallery picking out old favorites, and discovering new ones. In the end, it is obvious – there is nothing new about hips and bosoms.

Five terracotta statues from Cyprus 1450-1200 BC

Five terracotta statues from Cyprus 1450-1200 B.C.

Actually, the collective unconscious that has sculpted, shall we say mannequins, goes much further back than a mere 5,513 years. Thirty-five thousand years ago, sculptures carved from mammoths’ tusks and limestone, that can only be described as zaftig were being created throughout Europe. They are known as Venus figures. So, when you think about it, the earliest artists ever, those that lived before history had a starting date, depicted their ideal women as voluptuous:

Marble female figure 4500-4000 B.C.

Marble female figure 4500-4000 B.C.

I guess the Venezuelan mannequins can be viewed as simply a bridge to prehistory.