Eye of the Beholder

Contrasting Views of Beauty, Strength, and Heroism Across Cultures by Thomas Hausler

Hercules (Herakles) holding the hide of an "unkillable" lion. Visible musculature, thick beard and broad shoulders mark a masculine, heroic form. These views tend to be idealized and held even today.
Venus, Roman goddess of beauty, holding the Apple of Dischord. Legend depicts a sort of beauty contest with this apple as the prize and a mortal as judge. A slender, yet slightly padded frame and modest breasts depict their ideal of beauty.
A Greek piece depicting an unknown god or hero. Though less muscular than the demigod Hercules, we still see musculature depicted and shoulders held broad and high. Here we see a more greek ideal of a clean-shaven face, revealing soft facial features.
So focused on beauty and form were the Greeks, they created the "Kuros." A blank-template male form depicting an ideal figure. This is a wonderful portrait of a society's views as this was the "general" male ideal usually purchased as decoration by those with nobility or power.
While none can be sure, it is thought that this is a bust of Cleopatra. It can be thought that this is so due to the ideals of ancient Egyptian culture seen.The bust of the bust is depicted as slightly large and the facial features petite with higher cheekbones. The ideal here is some of the earlier depicted of lithe, slim, busty frames.
Judaism and Christianity aren't without heroes. Here we see Samson killing a Philistine with the jawbone of a donkey. This is, perhaps, where we see more modern ideals of the heroic frame seen. Each muscle is seen tensed and poised. Little fat and broad shoulders square the torso and even the beard-obscured jaw seems squared.
Not all focus on the body, some focus more on skill. Such is seen in the chinese culture. This heroic figure is obscured completely in robes, though we see a face and bow turned heavenward. This piece shows that not all are focused on what a person looks like to be a hero, rather what they can do.
Still within the realms of Asian culture, we see a depiction of Japanese heroes of yore. This depicts two samurai, again covered almost entirely in their depictions aside from the face. Here, the focus is on their ornate clothing and their expressions, showing them as gruff and hearty individuals just in how we see them poised.
Here we take a trip to India where we see feminine beauty depicted somewhat in abstract. While the bust is depicted, the focus is most certainly on the face. The adornments in the hair and on the face, the eyes exaggerated to focus on their shape. Here we see examples of simpler beauty and of accessories used to enhance it.
Finally, we come home to America to find a simpler depiction of a heroic figure. George Washington was considered a brilliant general and a hero of his time. Rather than broadness of shoulder or power of form ,we see here power of self. Wealth and poise are what the people of the then-infant America saw as powerful and his military leadership and iron will heroic. This only shows the broadness of what can make a person beautiful, strong, or heroic over time.
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