How Women in Iconic Paintings Would Look if They Got Photoshopped to Fit Today's Ideals

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Modern standards of beauty, influenced by skinny fashion models and Photoshopped celebrities in glossy magazines, dictate that thin is in. But it wasn't always that way. 

To shed light to the unrealistic body ideals created by virtual scalpels, photo editor Lauren Wade has taken her Photoshop tools to famous paintings that feature iconic images of female beauty. By perking up breasts, pulling in waists, creating thigh gaps and smoothing out blemishes, Wade shows just how extreme Photoshop culture has become. 

"While the conversation about the media's portrayal and obsession with an unrealistic and unattainable beauty standard is not a new one, I think it's crazy how much retouching people don’t notice," Wade wrote at TakePart. "We’ve taken a digital liquefy brush to the painstakingly layered oils of some of the most celebrated paintings of the female form, nipping and tucking at will. There may be something sacrilegious in that, but the same could be said for our contemporary ideas of beauty."

This is not the first time that someone has noticed the stark differences regarding who has been considered beautiful over the centuries. Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano examined the phenomenon in her "Venus" project a few years ago.

"What would have happened if the aesthetic standard of our society had belonged to the collective unconscious of the great artists of the past?" Giordano asked at the time, according to Flavorwire. The project made Flavorwire's Marina Galperina "wonder if the girls of yesteryear — the ones with the skinny forms idolized by today’s fashion industry — would have stared up at the comparatively Rubenesque builds of the pin-ups of their day with envy."

A recent surge in listicles, ad campaigns and crusades against airbrushing has drawn attention to the pervasive presence of Photoshop and the effect it has on beauty standards, body image and self-confidence. By hacking away at Renaissance art's most beautiful bodies, Wade shows just how normalized airbrushed women have become. We might not notice it on the cover of a glossy magazine, but it's a lot more alarming to contrast Wade's before and after images. 

Standards of female beauty are ever-changing — just compare 1920s Coco Chanel, 1950s Marylin Monroe, 1960s Twiggy, 1990s Pamela Anderson and 2010s Victoria Beckham. Bootylicious Botticellis and Modiglianian mamasitas may not have ever fit into a size zero — but therein lies their beauty. 

Titian, Danaë With Eros (1544)


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Grande Odalisque (1814)


Edgar Degas, La Toilette (1884-86)


Raphael, Three Graces (1504-1505)


Paul Gauguin, Two Tahitian Women (1899)


Francisco Goya, Nude Maya (1797-1800)


Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus (1486)


Amedeo Modigliani, Nude Sitting on a Divan (1917)


Image Credits (all): Lauren Wade

See the entire campaign and more images on TakePart.

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Lauren Davidson

Lauren Davidson is a British journalist living it up in New York. She's written for The Wall Street Journal, The Times (of London) and The Atlantic, among others, and she has a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism.

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