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Art Models XXL? No Photoshop Allowed!

Bodies And Erotic Art

Art Models XXL? No Photoshop Allowed!

The recent row over the Cannes poster featuring a famous actress Claudia Cardinale, who was slimmed with photoshop by poster designers

Cannes Festival Poster 2017. Source: models xxl

Cannes Festival Poster 2017. Source:

made me think about our perception of beauty and ideal body size. A reflection that we still perceive skinny as the closest to perfect, prompted me to present you with beautiful XXL women from art history.

Mrs Muscle

Michelangelo, The Delphic Sibyl, 1509, Sistine Chapel, Vatican models xxl

Michelangelo, The Delphic Sibyl, 1509, Sistine Chapel, Vatican

The only thing that art historians can be picky about when talking about Michelangelo, is his technique of depicting women. Some even dare say that he COULDN’T PAINT FEMALE BODY, because all his women have nothing to do with ethereal Botticelli’s primaveras and venuses. Instead, they are always muscular and giant, different from his men only by the long hair and more feminine faces. Yet, I think Michelangelo was simply the first guy supporting female bodybuilding.

Health above all

Peter Paul Rubens, Hygeia, Goddess Of Health, c.1615, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, art models xxl

Peter Paul Rubens, Hygeia, Goddess Of Health, c.1615, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

This picture is definitely a picture of good health (forgive this awful pun). Hygeia was the daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius, who is depicted here in his symbolic form of a serpent, and she was a patroness of good health, hygiene, and sanitation. For Rubens and his contemporaries healthy woman was a chubby woman, and therefore he painted solely healthy women – remember my favourite Venus? She was fit as a fiddle! Rubens was definitely right: skinny doesn’t always mean healthy.

Sexy Size (and it’s not XS)

Gustave Courbet, Woman With White Stockings, 1861, Barnes Foundation, Lower Merion, art models xxl

Gustave Courbet, Woman With White Stockings, 1861, Barnes Foundation, Lower Merion, PA

Courbet, as a founder of Realism, wanted to paint only real women of his age and not the ‘improved’ goddesses of the Academic artists. To make the situation worse, he often chose the popular theme of bathers or sleepers to show them naked. The reviewers had no mercy for his technique, nor for his figures whom they called disgusting and ugly. I guess this way they just wanted to hide that in reality they found them pretty seductive and sexy.

Excluded because Big?

Jenny Saville, Trace, 1993-94, Source: Saatchi Gallery. art models xxl

Jenny Saville, Trace, 1993-94, Source: Saatchi Gallery.

Jenny Saville’s art can be characterized as art of exaggeration, as she often expands, inflates, distorts the bodies she depicts, in order to make us look at a body with new eyes. Why did she call this one Trace? Is it because obese people, or in more general terms people who do not conform to the beauty canons, are often just a trace in our societies? Is it why her model is not facing us, as we often look at obese people through the lens of their bodies only? Food for thought.

As powerful as a hurricane

hurricane-woman-1949.jpg!Large models xxl

Germaine Richier, Hurricane Woman, 1949, Tate Gallery, London

The Hurricane Woman was made following Storm Man, as a homage to the survival of humanity in the face of the destructive force of the Second World War. She is the embodiment of strength, vitality and life, she is a woman who firmly stands on her strong legs and proudly presents her abundant bust. She is looking bravely into the future, and I hope that all of you are, no matter what size you are wearing.



Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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