Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beauty ideals over time - Antony & Cleopatra

Who says ideas of beauty don't change over time?

Discovery of several ancient Roman coins which depict legendary temptress Cleopatra & Roman general Marc Antony were announced recently. Contemporary portrayals of the pair on the currency is much different then the idealized versions of modern pop culture, particularly of Cleopatra.

Neither individual displays features suggesting physical attractiveness by our standards with Cleopatra sporting a pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose. Mark Antony, fares little better with a hook nose, bulging eyes and a thick neck. Hopefully this puts the notion to bed about Cleopatra being either an idealized western European like Elizabeth Taylor or some politically correct black African beauty as was popular to do in Afro-American studies classes in years past.

Lindsay Allason-Jones, a director of archaeological museums, said that the image of her as a great beauty is comparatively modern.

"Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic and that she had a seductive voice, but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty. It's one of those perpetual myths that has been perpetuated by having people like Elizabeth Taylor playing her and it's very difficult to get that out of peoples' psyches".

"She does look as if she's forgotten to put her teeth in", she says

HBO's incredible series Rome has a very interesting portrayal of the pair to compare to.

Antony is played by classically trained British actor, James Purefoy while Cleopatra is portrayed by fellow-Brit, Lyndsey Marshal. While Purfoy is a pretty good-looking guy (he was screen tested to be James Bond around the time Pierce Brosnan got the role), his Antony is a grubby,vile character in the series. Marshal, is a rather dramatic juxtaposition from immortal Elizabeth Taylor's presence on screen. Her character was introduced last-year as a short-haired opium junkie who oozed reptile-like sexuality from body language. I'm not sure what ethnicity Marshal comes from, but she definitely resembles someone of Egyptian descent more then other portrayals prior.

If you haven't treated your self to "Rome" yet on HBO, rent the first season box-set. It is a real treat!


lalagigi said...

i saw so many hook noses in the busts in the vatican. and i just noticed my figure drawing professor's hook, nose. i think it looks attractive on her. she kind of looks like a rosetti redhead, except she is blond. her last name is pohlman...hmmm. i don't think she is italian. she might be jewish.

been wanting to rent rome. heard it is a real stunner.

Dr. Rob Oliver said...

ROME is indeed stunning! Not that it's a real spoiler, but the show is much less interesting since Julius Caesar died at the end of seaon one.

Anonymous said...

lindsay marshal is english.