Tag Archives: human

Perspective: Beauty

Collective-Invention-1934-Oil-on-canvas The Collective Invention, Rene Magritte, 1934.
From reneemagritte.org

Do you believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Or do you think there is a basic standard of beauty that everyone agrees upon?

On this subject, I sit squarely on the fence.

I discussed perceptions of appearance last month in Daily Post: Mirror Mirror – in that post I referred to a BBC documentary presented by John Cleese called The Human Face  – if you are interested in perceptions of beauty/appearance, this is well worth watching, so I’ve put a link to Part 3, which deals with beauty, at the bottom of this post

Magritte’s painting a reversal of the universally accepted idea of a mermaid, half woman, half fish, generally accepted in our minds as having a top half shaped like a beautiful woman with the scaly bit at the bottom.  He delighted in making the familiar unfamiliar.  Even though this image is outside the common agreement of what is beautiful, the painting is done beautifully. But is it a beautiful painting? I think so.

The documentary opens with a statement that babies are automatically drawn to a beautiful face, e.g. they are young enough not to be influenced by cultural ideals.  Later on a debate between Nixon and JFK is discussed – it seems that people who watched it on television favoured Kennedy to win the debate, while those who listened on the radio favoured Nixon.  Imagine what the 1960’s would have been like if television hadn’t been invented.


DaVinci’s The Vitruvian Man by Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be

As for a basic standard of beauty, I don’t have to think there might be one, I know there is.  People who study art or philosophy will be familiar with symmetry and 1:1.618  – The Golden Ratio, illustrated by DaVinci in The Vitruvian Man. Studies have shown that this ratio applies to perceptions of beauty, regardless of ethnic differences.

What science has not really measured very well  is how a familiar face, which might not meet the commonly accepted ideal, becomes beautiful to the one who loves them. Or how a pug owner (no offence) might think their dog is the Adonis of dogs. Or how I think The Diva is totally gorgeous, even when she’s just  come in out of the rain, having stuck her face into a pot of wet compost.

2012-09-02 15.14.46 - CopyDSC_0480





John Cleese and Elizabeth Hurley, making Physiognomy‎ interesting

NaBloPoMo February 2014Roundup

Daily Prompt: Mirror Mirror

Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite), Rene Magritte, 1937.Portrait of Edward James. From reneeemagritte.org
Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite), Rene Magritte, 1937.
Portrait of Edward James. From reneeemagritte.org

Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances?

Only thought can resemble. It resembles by being what it sees, hears, or knows; it becomes what the world offers it. ”
– Rene Magritte

The thing is that when you look in a mirror, you can’t see yourself, you see a reflection – it isn’t you, it’s your mirror image.  So, if it matches the person you feel like on the inside, there might be something wrong, because what you are looking at is a reverse image. If you really want to know how you look, take a photograph of yourself and hold it up to a mirror, at least that way, your face will be the “right” way round.

Have you got your head round this yet?   OK, now that you have an idea of what the face you present to the world looks like, let’s see if it matches your perception of yourself.  Holding that image in your mind – assume it is the face of a stranger. Can you see any sign of the book that person read or a movie they watched recently?  Any indication that they met their best friend/worst enemy today? Can you figure out what that face likes to eat for breakfast. Would you be able to tell whether that person is a parent, an accountant, an axe murderer? Gay or straight? Right or left-handed?  Is this a reliable person or a complete flake?

At this point you will have figured out I don’t put a whole lot of stock on appearances. However, I am completely fascinated by perceptions.

Thanks to the wonderful YouTube, here is a BBC  documentary presented by the wonderful John Cleese, all about  the human face, how it works and how it influences our interactions with one another.  Enjoy.

Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror