Beauty Through the Ages: Pre-Raphaelite Era

Cindy, age 14, New York
Sweet Designs Featured Writer

Featured Gold Star Writer Bio

Note: Hopefully, this is Part I in a multi-part series. It is not a tiresome self-affirmation piece. I promise not to go into the whole "They used to appreciate plumper women back then, so you can feel better about yourself" lecture.

The idea of perfect beauty is transient. Different artistic movements and eras in time had different ideas of the perfect woman. I want to showcase one of my favorite periods in art, the Pre-Raphaelite Era.

Unlike the name suggests, the Pre-Raphaelites came after Raphael. Raphael was a Renaissance era painter who used formal, dramatic poses. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of artists from around 1850 who disliked the unoriginal, stiff style that most painters after Raphael began to use. They called art like that "sloshy." Isn't that a fantastic word? The Pre-Raphaelites used vivid color and wanted to imitate nature. The ideal Pre-Raphaelite woman was also intense and striking. Weight, hair color, complexion, and all the other things that decide what's beautiful today didn't matter as much.

For example, Jane Morris was an artist's muse. She had large, prominent features that drew the eye in, an average figure, and tons of wavy, dark hair.

Jane Morris as Proserpine, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

A large nose, heavy eyebrows, and bushy hair are generally considered unattractive, but on Jane Morris these are the very features that set her apart and make her so interesting.

The same artist also painted Fanny Cornforth. Fanny was plumper, with red hair and a reddish complexion. The only thing Fanny had in common with Jane Morris was that they were both striking.

There are tons of products nowadays to cover blotchy or pale skin, but here the contrast is just a form of the vivid colors typical of Pre-Raphaelite painting.

Elizabeth Siddel, an artist in her own right as well as a model, is shown here with none of the trappings of beauty we are familiar with. She is painted with short, frizzy hair, no makeup, invisible eyelashes, heavy features, and loose clothing. Yet in this image she represents Beatrice, the character from Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, who is so beautiful that she literally saves a man's soul. Not to mention the fact that the main character of The Divine Comedy only met her twice, yet was in love with her for all of his life. This really shows that the ideal pre-Raphaelite woman didn't have to have a certain eye, nose, or lip. She just needed to be interesting and intense.

Oh, a bonus: The men of the pre-Raphaelite era were not shabby (or, should we say "sloshy"?) looking either.

Self portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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February & March Magazine Issues

March 15, 2012

The February and March issues of Sweet Designs Magazine are now online, featuring a combined 53 new articles and features!!

- Cover: Stephanie Lynn reflects on 5 years
- Cover: India (of Darn-licious knitwear)
- Life in the dumps (moving in with my bf)
- The difference between men and women
- Angels among us (parts 1 and 2)
- Arts graduates & the dark night of the soul
- Triple threat (how I survived my teen yrs)
- Dating isn't easy (my true story)
- How to turn not-so-great gifts ... (fashion)
- Ten reasons to love being single
- Taking the big leap (college)
- Valentine's Day (not what you'd expect!)
- The last of the cold (hopefully) (fashion)
- A month full of love
- Ten tips for successful airline travel
- Reasons I love writing for SDM
- Who needs love?
- They're not all the same
- The life I'm glad I don't have (fiction)
- Professional dress/ finding Fendi (fashion)
- An airport anniversary: a true story
- Inappropriate Facebook photos
- The perks of a big city (college)
- A night(mare) to forget (part 2)
- The Anita Blake series (book review)
- Saving June by Hannah Harrington (book)
- Under the Mesquite by GG McCall (book)
- The Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (book)
- If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (book review)
- My sweetheart (original poetry)
- Isn't it funny (original poetry)
- The stranger (original poetry)
- A winter wonderland (original poetry)
- One night valentine
- The thick envelopes (college acceptance)
- Southern love
- Healthy hair and vitamins
- It's a date (dating idea alternatives)
- The 30 hour famine
- School's out forever!
- Marching right back into spring? (fashion)
- Dear John
- When TV shows depict your life
- 3 Fun ways to rock spring's hottest trends
- Neglected teeth
- Starting something new
- Guy movies
- To hesitate or dive in?
- Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro (book review)
- Beastly, by Alex Flinn (book review)
- I don't care (poetry)
- Together, alone (poetry)

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