What if classical pieces like La nascita di Venere by Botticelli conformed to today’s beauty standards?

Online news organization Take Part recently released a set of GIFs that portray classical works of art adapted to modern ideals. Specifically, it took the digital airbrush to womens’ bodies in paintings by Titian, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, Raphael, Paul Gauguin, Francisco Goya, Sandro Botticelli, and Amedeo Modigliani.

The works show several seconds of the original paintings before they switch over to the Photoshopped versions and then repeat the cycle. The women, primarily, and the men in the images show off their bodies that are considerably less plump, to say the least. And in the author’s own words, Lauren Wade says “these painted ladies now have a lot more thigh gap.”

Though Wade takes the position that there may be something sacreligious about defacing the works of art and perhaps also about defacing the human body with contemporary standards, other artists have taken different views on similar actions.

For Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano, who has performed this sort of transformation in her Venus project, the change from full-figured women to “busty, slim-waisted figures” could represent a cultural obsession with an unattainable adolescent image, said Visual News back in 2012.

The author of that article, Benjamin Starr, proclaims that present society may have an “obsession with near impossibly adolescent figures,” but he also notes that this sort of obsession is not exactly new. “From the plump beauty standards of China’s Tang Dynasty, to the waif-thin ideals of 1920s flapper style and the voluptuous 1950s,” Starr says, “we’ve seen standards change for a long, long time.”

Both authors appear to agree on the point that the media is laying down a heavier hand than ever before. Media bombards society as a whole with images of “perfected” bodies that represent the current standard, and it perhaps is making it harder for anyone to determine what is natural and what is not. As Wade emphatically states, “I think it’s crazy how much retouching people don’t notice.”

Perhaps that is the point the underlies both these projects. The altered images, standing alone, do not necessarily look unnatural or unhealthy. The contrast between them and their originals, however, shows the vast differences between what a typified perfection once was and what it is today. It is certainly up to readers to determine what they view as being beautiful. As part of the audience, I hope that any choice of beauty does not negatively impact a choice for health.

Be sure to check out the article on Take Part (linked above) to see the drastic transformation between classical art and its modern day translation.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons