Mon 25 Apr, 2016 07:49 am
In some ways this topic is the flip-side of the topic “Women in Cinema.”
It seems to me that the word "Beauty" is not generally associated with the male form, but I feel that the male form has the potential to be seen as being as beautiful as the female form.
I feel strongly that beauty is in the "eye of the beholder." What that means to me is that a person or object or any living thing cannot be beautiful or ugly in and of itself. I may perceive something as being beautiful, but that does not make that thing beautiful, because the perception of beauty is within me, not in the object. Someone else may perceive that same thing as being ugly and by the same logic that does not make it ugly. Sometimes I might say or write that something is beautiful, but that is just a shorthand way of me saying that I perceive it as beautiful.
I suspect not all people feel that way. For example The Random House College Dictionary defines beauty as "a quality that is present in a thing or person giving intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction to the senses or the mind." I agree with the second part of that definition ("giving intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction to the senses or the mind"), but for the first part to be the case ("a quality that is present in a thing or person") would mean that everyone would have the same perception or opinion regarding the beauty of a person or thing. I don't think that is the case.
I am in part a product of the time and place where I have lived. In that I mean my likes and dislikes have been influenced by what exists in the society and culture I live in. I know that my likes and dislikes are basically subconscious in that I don't consciously decide to like something or dislike it. However, I feel that my conscious thoughts and my actions could alter my subconscious likes and dislikes, although that takes time and "practice." I have some difficulty with the idea of male beauty, not so much because of the way I was born, but more because of what I have explicitly or implicitly learned by observing people, by reading and by what I heard. As a result many times when I feel a man is beautiful there seems to be something that tells me that is wrong and that this something that tells me that is wrong diminishes my experience of beauty. What is odd to me is that I am more likely to perceive the male body to be beautiful as opposed to the male face. Maybe the face is too personal. Also, I am more picky in regard to seeing males as beautiful as compared to females.
I see ballet as being very beautiful in regard to the dancers, their movements, their expressions and their forms. There is also the music and in many cases the scenery that I find beautiful. Recently I saw a live production of the ballet “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with music by Felix Mendelssohn. Two young male dancers who I saw as being beautiful were James Walters, who danced the role of Oberon and in particular Keith Justin Reeves who danced the role of Theseus. Ballet provides me good examples of men that I perceive as being beautiful. I don’t know if that sounds strange or not. One good example is the short ballet Le Spectre de la Rose which premiered on April 19, 1911 at the Theatre de Monte Carlo, with Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina. This is a good showcase for the male dancer. Hopefully you can see a less than 9 minute long video of this ballet by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRf8XRXDZaU.
The performers in the youtube video are Valdimir Malakhov and Nadja Saidakova.
Humans are weak compared to other animals of the same or even smaller size and human babies require a lot of attention and nutriment. Further humans can talk to each other. All this means that human survival, on an individual and on a species level, is likely to be enhanced by humans grouping together. By, grouping together humans can protect themselves from stronger and bigger animals and can hunt stronger and bigger animals for food. Also, talking would have no advantage if there was no one to talk to. Then it seems to me that being born with a predisposition toward finding the sight of other humans visually attractive, in the sense of “appealing to one’s sense of beauty providing pleasure or delight . . .” (The Random House College Dictionary) would encourage humans to be attracted to one another and thereby to group together. Perceiving a person to be beautiful could be thought of as perceiving that person to be very or extremely attractive. Humans being born with a predisposition toward finding the sight of other humans visually attractive would mean that humans are born with a predisposition toward finding some other humans visually beautiful. This would hold for men perceiving women or other men as beautiful, as well as for women perceiving men or other women as beautiful. Thus it seems to me that males have the potential to be seen as being as beautiful as females.
In reading this thread some people might think that the word that substitutes for beauty for men is handsome, but beauty and handsome are not the same intensity. The Random House College Dictionary defines handsome as “having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength: good-looking,” while, as I wrote earlier, the definition for beauty is something that is “. . . giving intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction to the senses or the mind.” Now, it is my opinion that the tendency of using the word “beautiful” to refer to women and the word “handsome” to refer to men is a reflection of the tendency for people to think that women are more visually attractive than men and maybe that women should be more visually attractive than men.
One of my favorite works of art is Michelangelo’s “David” (1501 to 1504). The statue is large, 16 feet, 11.15 inches tall, weighs 12,478.12 pounds (more than six tons) and is carved from Carrara Marble. Originally the piece of marble it was carved from was 19 feet tall. I feel this is a beautiful work of art.
I see in David’s face feelings of supreme confidence and concentration. He knows what he wants and he is certain that he will achieve it. Also in his expression I see intelligence. His body shows the same confidence. The figure’s weight is on one leg as if he is prepared to move forward. He is ready for action and is not tense. His physic shows a young man who is fit and powerful, but also who could be agile. Despite the strength indicated I sense that his more powerful quality is his intelligence such as is revealed by his eyes and it has always appeared to me that David’s head is a little large for scale. His hair is slightly long and wild.
If I had to use just one word, other than beautiful, to describe my impression of this figure the word would be “noble” as in the Merriam-Webster definition of the word: “having, showing, or coming from personal qualities that people admire” and “possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals.”
Michelangelo depicted “David” completely nude. Despite this there is no shame about this figure. Nothing is hidden – everything is there to be seen. For me this heightens the feeling of confidence and nobility that I see in the figure. He is not ashamed of any of his attributes and I don’t feel he needs to be. The artist Gianlorenzo Bernini also did a statue of a nude David (1623), but his David is inexplicitly censored by some strange piece of cloth. To me this adds a sense of shame.
At the time that Michelangelo started his work it was to be placed high up on the Cathedral of Florence – the Duomo. However, when the work was completed it was decided not to place it up on the Cathedral, either because it was felt that it would be too difficult to lift it to that position or because of its beauty those in charge wanted it placed where it could be viewed close up (I think it was a little of both). In any case it was placed in the Piazza della Signoria, in the heart of the city and in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
This suggests to me that the people of Florence were proud of this work and I can understand why. To me it seems a representation of Renaissance man, a man who confidently looks to the future sure that he will be able to overcome all problems. It seems a visual symbol of Protagoras’ (fifth century BCE, Greek philosopher) claim that “Man is the measure of all things.” I can’t imagine that such a large male nude would be placed in such a prominent place in the United States.
That there are a number of factors which suggest that Michelangelo did not actual mean his statue to be of the biblical David is interesting to me, but not that important. What I see as the primary significance of this work is not that it is of a biblical figure, but that it shows, at least to me, that the male nude can be depicted as being beautiful, noble and inspiring.
I’m interested in other works of art that depict the male, clothed or nude, that people see as being beautiful and I am interested in examples of what people see as being beautiful in regard to males in dance and male fashions.