Venus of Willendorf vs Barbie Humn 303

Topics: Barbie, Ruth Handler, Venus of Willendorf Pages: 11 (2325 words) Published: March 7, 2015


Exalted Beauties
The Venus of Willendorf vs. the Barbie Doll
Kristin Groth
Chamberlain College of Nursing
HUMN 303: Introduction to Humanities
January, 2015

Exalted Beauties: Venus of Willendorf vs. the Barbie Doll
The Venus of Willendorf is known for her voluptuous figure, and is often regarded as an icon of fertility, health, and abundance. Barbie is known for her blonde hair, big blue eyes, and her size zero figure, she is often regarded as an iconic representation of beauty (The icon, n.d.). These two figures could not look more different yet they do have some things in common. Both are female, manmade, and both are inspirational in their own way, and are both distorted images of the female form, both representations of women are what the artist envisioned in his mind and not necessarily an actual likeness to the women of their time. Who are they?

Venus of Willendorf is a small statuette discovered in Austria in 1908, by Josef Szombathy. She is named after the site in Austria where she was unearthed; she is the first known human figurine and is considered an icon of prehistory. The statue dates back to the Paleolithic era between 24,000-22,000 BCE, where she was carved from oolitic limestone, she stands 11centimeters tall (Seshadri, 2012). She has been referred to as obese, with her large abdomen, wide hips, swollen thighs, and her pendulous breasts; the statuette has no face or feet, and small arms resting on her bosom. She either has her hair braided around the top of her head or is wearing a basket type hat which was popular at that time (Holloway, 2014). It is argued that she was not obese but actually pregnant, explaining her exaggerated figure (Kettlewell, n.d.).

Barbie debuted in 1959. She was created by a woman named Ruth Handler. Since at the time only baby dolls existed, Ruth wanted an adult doll for her daughter Barbara to play with. She noticed her daughter pretending that her paper dolls were grown up, getting married, and going off to work, so she decided to create an adult doll for her. Barbie is celebrated as the first adult doll for girls. Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, and is from Wisconsin (Engin, 2013). She stands 11.5 inches tall, has blonde hair, blue eyes, a tiny waist, and long legs. This tall busty blonde is considered is an All-American icon, and has an extremely large global fan base. Barbie is sold by the toy company Mattel, and is one of the world’s most recognized toys (Engin, 2013). Exaggerated forms of the female body

Throughout history, we can see that artists have created statues or sculptures that lack realism in their work and tend to exaggerate their socially accepted features that they deem as beauty. Different cultures emphasize different body parts such as ears or forehead that other cultures may find unpleasant, or even grotesque. For example some tribes may use neck rings to lengthen the neck and lip plates to stretch the lip in the name of beauty, in some tribes the bigger the lip plate the more desirable a woman becomes (Dunia/People and culture, 2012).

Venus of Willendorf is an example of this exaggerated form of beauty, with emphasis on her sagging breasts, protruding abdomen, and genital area, and with de-emphasis on her arms and face, as well as her lack of feet, she is most likely a symbol of beauty rather than an actual depiction of the women of her time. According to Spivey (2004), “The people who made this statue lived in a harsh ice-age environment where features of fatness and fertility would have been highly desirable” (PBS.org). Perhaps in their harsh existence, women could not get pregnant or lost their children to miscarriages. The statue may then have been an idol for fertility and motherhood. However there are many theories that have been introduced including: Self portraits, Stone Age dolls, religious icons, and even pornographic imagery (Holloway, 2014).

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