p.p1 Beyond the individual search for one’s

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The story of beauty wouldn’t exist without the relationship between the body and the individual, or even the body and the society. The previous article tendent to express the « profound me » through the body, which is a very complex initiative since it is oriented in accordance with social mores. However, what is the real relationship between someone and its body ? Beyond the  individual search for one’s identity, how do we perceive and represent ourselves ? The late XVIIth century sees the triumph on sensitivity and the reinforcement of the power of its support : the merge of the body and the identity require a better apprehension of the surface. On the surface of body, our skin, one expresses sensations, emotions… The surface is psychologized because it is related to the spirit and make a difference of quality between men and women : women’s skin is suppler, finer, more readable in terms of mood. The fiber, which is the pillar of sensations, is also the picture of the firmness of physical aesthetic : « the excess of delicateness harms beauty as much as health »In the second part of the XIXth century, the body tend to be unveiled : the under triumphs on the artifacts of clothes, tending to reveal more physical characteristics than clothes that modify the structure of the body. Behinds are becoming physically more curved, while it used to be the proper structure of the dress to be accentuated on the back. (picture of a dress with bustle). Besides, appears a normalization of the «naked », through posters, magazines, reviews…Meanwhile, at the beginning of the same century, appears an innovation : the Psychée. Invented under the reign of Napoléon Ist, the Psychée also called Cheval Mirror, is a mirror assembled on a pivot to be orientable and reserved to women rooms This ancestor of full length mirrors has later on give birth to flow to ceiling mirrors on wardrobes. First developed in bedrooms and salons bourgeois, those closets provided with full size mirrors has changed the way one observe its body. Reserved to high social class first because of the cost of those objects, the elites’ spaces are being transformed by reinforcing the space dedicated to intimacy. Transformed by new embellishment tools, spaces are designed to hide one in order to devote oneself to a culte of beauty. The naked body, for the first time, is observable, detail-able, from the bottom to the top, « in every directions ».

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« How to live in a body one hasn’t seen ? » asks french anthropologue Véronique Nahoum-Grappe. In deed, observation accentuates self-requirements and orients towards beauty canons and sharpen the eye. This also leads to a cross the step modesty, which was omnipresent until there. Withinthe attention one pay to his/herself, the eye isn’t troubled by the intimate characteristic of his/her action. However, the body is scrutinized without reserve and manipulate as an independent part of oneself.  The only exigence is (should be) to take the time to get prepared in order to look beautiful. The repetitive scene of public toilette is obsolete and makes way for a secret and solitary ritual.  

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This very precise analyze of the body added to a culture of images stronger and stronger has led to creations of many complexes as dismorpho-phobia, anorexia, bigorexia and other troubles linked to appearances are pointed since the 1990’s by scientific and psychologists. Impossible and violent desires that have always existed since the beginning of times, as the quest of eternal youth or subtraction of bodies’ part, are now possible thanks to science, however many institutions like religion, tales, art or cinema have make a bridge between the quest of eternal youth and the dark sides of it. This is what The Picture of Dorian Gray relates, under the features of a young gentleman named Dorian, cursed for having wished to be always beautiful and condemned to admire a picture of him whose features will follow the slides of his damned soul. The horrific picture described by Wilde suggest to the reader to dissociate the soul from beauty, as well as considerate the quest of youth as vain and condemnable. A more modern exemple is the film The Neon Demon, staring Elle Fanning in the particular context of the fashion industry, reinforced by a very gloomy aesthetized set. The scenario basically deals with a very young girl who makes her first step in the mannequin world and end eaten by two models and a makeup artist. If the lack of deepness of the scenario leaves the spectator a bit disappointed, the references to virgin’s blood bath are quite clever to illustrate how limitless are the aesthetics injonctions as much as the fashion sphere. Inspired like many other tales by Alžbeta Bátoriová-Nádasdiová, the countess who used to take bath of virgin’s blood to limit the damages of time, this story makes a good point on the tyranny of beauty. Besides, the film is based on thematics like fear or anxiety, horror and death. However, they are so-well aesthetized they enjoin the spectators to admire the spectacle happening under  their eyes. Also part of the film, plastic surgery is presented by one of the character as a common practice and echoes back the idea of violent transformations and transgression of the body as much as the identity. Nevertheless, if the practice of aesthetic transformation is quite current, body’s member subtraction is also common. to look thiner, some women pull out the last ribs of the rib cage in order to have a slimmer waist, letting organs without any protection and putting them in jeopardy. The practice is doable and current however beauty’s injonction were already strong enough to inspire this fable to jean la Fontaine in 1668.

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