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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/849

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EXAGGERATION AS AN AESTHETIC FACTOR.

the beginning is made absurd by a continued course of exaggeration. We never reach the most extravagant form in the beginning, but it is the culmination of a series of modifications becoming progressively more accentuated. Thus, the long-toed shoes were the growth of more than a century. The point began about the middle of the thirteenth century, reached its longest at the end of the fourteenth century, and disappeared all at once in 1420, when it gave way to the square-toed shoe.

The influence of exaggeration in forming the ideal of beauty is illustrated, too, in the art of different peoples. One of the elements of a Siamese woman's beauty is, according to M. Léon Rosny, an arched shape of the eyebrows, causing them to resemble crescents; and if we examine photographs of these women we shall find that the curvature of the eyebrows is indeed more marked in them than in their neighbors, the Annamites and Burmese. This feature is much exaggerated in their statues, and is most strongly indicated in the Buddhas in the Musée Guimets. The Hindus are even more slender and tall than Europeans, and admire a full pelvic development in women. While we have tightened our corsets to increase the appearance of slenderness and heighten the contrast between the waist and the hips, our admiration for classic art has prevented our carrying these exaggerations into statuary; but the Hindus have not refrained, and their works therefore have a very peculiar character.

The Siamese and Hindus, however, are not highly esteemed as artists. We will now, therefore, take some examples from a people in whom the high excellence of this faculty is undisputed—the Japanese. While their designs are usually very various, when they come to depict feminine beauty they exhibit a single type, which we find identical on all the "Kakemono." It is a strange kind of beauty, with the face greatly elongated, the nose continuing the profile of the forehead, and the eyes excessively oblique; a beauty rare enough in Japan, where the plebeian woman's face is short and round, but which may be found in the patricians and in the courtesans of high rank. We can prove the exaggeration here by figures. In the Japanese photographs the line of the eyes forms an angle of from two to seven degrees with the horizontal. This is said by some authors to be only in appearance, but M. Regalia has proved its reality by measurements of the cranial orbits. In the Japanese drawings the line makes an angle of from thirty-five to forty-four degrees. A comparison of these with old drawings of the eighteenth century will show that the exaggeration has become much more marked in the present century.

The Grecian portrait seems the perfection of the human type to us, and artists copy it, although it is actually rare. In it the