ARTS: Tall is Beautiful

Question: How many short, overweight models and starlets do you see in advertising and in Hollywood?
Answer: Not many.
How many tall, slender models and starlets do you see in advertising and in Hollywood?
Answer: Most of them.

So here is a thesis about art and perception that you can take to the bank: The eye is naturally attracted to tall things, like a tall woman or man, or one who is proportionally taller and thinner.

Now here is a quick test. Look at the two images below of a European sports car. It is the same car but the images are slightly different from each other – the lower image is longer. Which do you prefer? Take a moment to look closely and to decide: believes that most people would pick the lower image. Because the lower car is longer in its proportion and thus, like a taller figure, it is more naturally attractive to the eye. If the car looked like a square tin box, like a cheap Toyota, it wouldn’t even enter our minds that it is beautiful or “cool” looking.

This yellow automobile comes from the elite Italian manufacturer Lamborghini. It is a 2006 Murcielago model. Murcielago was a famous Spanish fighting bull. Lamborghini often uses the names of famous bulls for its cars, like the Aventador.

Can you guess which image is the real car and which has been lengthened or shortened using computer manipulation? Take a moment to look at the images again closely and then guess.

OK, time is up. Answer: The upper car is the real one. The lower image was manipulated to make the car look longer and sleeker. The non-round wheels in the lower image give away the manipulation.

So why doesn’t Lamborghini make its cars longer in order to be more attractive?

Good question. I submitted a series of 13 drawings to Lamborghini to propose a design in which the car is longer and thus more attractive to the eye. But they never responded. Darn it…

The legendary Enzo Ferrari once said that he thought that the Jaguar XKE was the most beautiful car. He did not even know it but he was seeing the elegance in the XKE’s dimensions with a very long wheelbase and low profile.

And thus you can see how the eye naturally prefers objects that are taller or longer. That is why taller and more slender people generally are more successful in life than shorter people and those who are overweight. It all is based in perception and proportion, that people are naturally attracted to taller people and to people who are well proportioned, like a woman with a beautiful figure or a man with a strong physique. As the Ancient Greeks said, “Beauty is proportion”.

In fact, the reason that a woman or a man is considered “beautiful” or “handsome” in the first place is a product of the geometric proportions in his/her face. It is a proven fact that a “beautiful” face is simply proportioned ideally, like the distance between the eyes compared to the distance from the nose to the chin, etc. When you add it all up a ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’ face simply has the highest level of “perfect” or “ideal” proportions.

Do you know who this lady is? She is considered to have a geometrically ‘perfect’ face and is considered by some to be The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Take a moment to see if you know her name.

Give up? Hint: She is a Canadian-born country/pop music star. Mathematical measurements of her face showed it to be as “perfect” as a face can be.
Her name is Shania Twain. Now look at this image of a race car photographed in Michigan, USA in 2001:

This car holds a world speed record set in October 2000 driven by the Brazilian Gil de Ferran. Look at its proportion. It is long and low, very sleek. This is a product of the theorem that “form rises together with function” which is not to be confused with the famous dictum by the architect Louis Sullivan that “form follows function”.

In other words, in the thesis, as the function rises (as the car goes faster and faster) its form becomes more refined and adheres more and more to the laws of visual perception, i.e., a longer and sleeker object goes faster and faster precisely as it is more beautiful and exciting to look at.

You have certainly heard about the legendary artist El Greco (“the Greek”). His real name was Domenicos Theotokopoulos and he lived from 1541 to 1614, in what is called the Late Renaissance or the Mannerist period. El Greco employed a millennia-long custom in his work and made figures unnaturally tall like St. John the Baptist of 1600:

This distortion appeared in Ancient Greek art and in Byzantine Christian icons too and was picked up by Renaissance painters like Parmigianino.

If El Greco’s figures all were rotund in proportion, like Santa Claus is depicted or like the elves in Snow White, his art would have been ridiculed. The tall figures give his art a visual appeal but without being cartoonish. It is strange how that works, but somehow it does. It is what we wish to see.

El Greco wanted to break boundaries in his art. He moved far away from the heart of the Italian Renaissance to Toledo, Spain and there he developed his unique style. He was considered the first “modernist” painter even though he lived 300 years before the advent of “modernist” art in 19th century in Europe.

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