The Nude by Kenneth Clark is a 60 year old survey of art history addressing the nude. Based on his observations, Clark sees beauty as balancing proportional geometry with a vivid symbol of desire. We asked whose geometry and whose desire?
Clark informs us that the pioneer archeologist and art historian, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (December 9, 1717 – June 8, 1768) "has asserted that whereas the male nude might achieve character, the female nude alone could aspire to beauty: an assertion uninfluenced by personal preferences but by his theory that beauty consists in smoothness and continuity."
It is of interest that Winkleman felt that the Hellenistic Laccoon was the greatest sculpture because it depicted physical drama in it's rawest state: at the instant of a man's greatest effort within his power. How did it come to be in western civilization that ideal female beauty and power are no longer mutually exclusive. What are the consequences?
"The ideal is like a myth in which the finished form can be understood only as the end of a long process of accretion. In the beginning, no doubt, there is the coincidence of widely diffused desires and the personal tastes of a few individuals endowed with the gift of simplifying their visual experiences into easily comprehensible shapes. Once this fusion has taken place, the resulting image, while still in a plastic state, may be enriched or refined upon by succeding generations, or to change the metaphor, it is like a receptacle into which more and more experience can be poured. Then, at a certain point, it is full. It sets".... Blake and Reynolds conclude that "ideal beauty was really the diffused memory of a typed developed in Greece 480-440 B.C." ( p. 14). Currently, power seems to be pouring into the still unfilled receptacle.