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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/847

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823
EXAGGERATION AS AN AESTHETIC FACTOR.

the Hottentot Venus, they break the bone. On the other hand, peoples who have thin noses can never get them aquiline enough. Persians cultivate this shape by pressing the sides of the nose, and the custom existed in France in the sixteenth century.

Paint, by which the appearance of the features may be modified at the least cost, is much used by all peoples. Sometimes it is employed to extend the beard. Aino women think it a fine thing to have a mustache, and by this means give themselves a full one. Opposed to them are the American Indians, who, being almost beardless, pull out the few beard hairs they have.

Black eyes and thick eyebrows are highly esteemed in the East, and the women use kohl for the production of the desired effect. The ancient Egyptians were fond of large, almond-shaped eyes, and produced the appearance of them by painting a prolongation of the outer commissure of the eye. The custom prevailed widely, and is represented in all the sculptures. The Japanese, too, like almond eyes, but want them oblique, and secure that appearance in the same way, only giving a different direction to the stroke. This particular custom has disappeared from among other peoples, but the use of paints still continues, and we paint our lips rosy and blacken our eyebrows.

The origin of these practices is evident. There are others the motives of which are more debatable, but are elucidated on comparison with these. We mention especially the atrophy of the feet among the Chinese. Some have attributed it to the jealousy of husbands, or to regard for a queen who lived many centuries ago and was lame; but Malte-Brun and Ploss say that the Chinese naturally have small feet. Their women have sought to exaggerate this ethnic characteristic.

The object, in the examples we have cited, has been to accentuate a characteristic of the race. In other cases man exaggerates the weight or the volume of an ornament assumed originally for another purpose. According to Herbert Spencer, the ornament was primarily a sign of distinction. It was worn in a conspicuous place as a testimonial of a successful hunt or of a victory over the enemy. Savages still hang human teeth or the claws of wild beasts from their noses, lips, and ears. The Chibchas wear in this way chains formed of as many golden feathers as they have slain enemies.

The next step is to increase the volume and weight of the ornaments. Under the spur of emulation the ear lobe, for example, is loaded down with trinkets till it is stretched so as to touch the shoulder. The enlargement of the ear lobe then becomes the desirable thing to the savage, and his chief effort is to bring it about. Under a like perversion of taste, similar effects are produced with the stick inserted into the thick of the lips. In this