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Virtual Vandalism

Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 08:02 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Ann Althouse links today to a horrifying slideshow in the New York Daily News showing photoshopped works of Renaissance art.

The classically plump women from Renaissance masterpieces like Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ (original above) have been digitally slimmed down in a modern-day makeover, a striking show of how views of beauty can change with time. Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano used Photoshop to digitally slice and dice the voluptuous figures, flattening plump tummies and thinning out thick thighs, replacing strong and sturdy limbs with lean calves and skinny arms.

Here’s a before-and-after example, from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus:

Venus before and after

That is so wrong, not only because of what it says about female body image—only thin can be considered beautiful—but also because art is, in a sense, a snapshot capturing the perception and intent of the artist, not something to be “fixed” by others with different ideas. Altering it is almost akin to vandalism, except that the originals are untouched (thank goodness for small favors). And don’t even get me started on the audacity of someone who believes she can do better than some of the greatest painters in the history of humanity.

Anna Utopia (is that even a real name?) Giordano isn’t an artist. She’s a counterfeiter, a con artist, a liar. That she is open about it doesn’t make it OK. She is taking something real, changing it, and claiming that it’s an improvement. It isn’t, just as it isn’t an improvement when photographs of real women are altered to make them, allegedly, more attractive.

Demi Moore's W magazine covers (click to view larger)Remember the small brouhaha over Demi Moore’s cover photo on W magazine, the photo in which it appear part of her left hip (right side of the picture) was digitally hacked off? Not only did the result not look real, it didn’t look possible, unless her hip suddenly and severely jutted out to meet the top of her thigh. Moore insisted that no changes had been made to the image, that it was all her, which was proven to be bunk after it came to light that the Korean version of the magazine hadn’t hadn’t made the same alteration. BuzzFeed subsequently posted photographic evidence showing how Moore’s body actually might have been someone else’s.  (Click the image at right to view larger.)

Filippa Hamilton, natural vs. mangled (click to view larger)Perhaps the most blatant example of digital photo manipulation gone wild was a Ralph Lauren ad featuring model Filippa Hamilton, or rather a grossly distorted version of Hamilton. At left are two images (grabbed from AURUM3 NewTech—click to view larger) showing the real Hamilton and the Ralph Lauren Ethiopian famine victim version. This is a less grotesque example of Lauren’s too-thin-isn’t-thin-enough policy. But he is hardly the only designer who is guilty. Here and here are examples of the similar manipulation by Ann Taylor.

The thing is that these women in their natural, unretouched state are already thinner than most. Apparently, either the designers or the marketers believe that the anorexic/concentration camp look helps sell clothes.

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Categories: gender issues, visual arts
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