Venus of Willendorf: the Image of Beauty and Survival

Venus of Willendorf: The Image of Beauty and Survival The Venus of Willendorf illustrates the characteristics of a woman in a utopian society because her figure demonstrates a society in which there is a stable food supply, and her most feminine features, breasts, hips and buttocks, are accentuated as a symbol of beauty and survival. According to PBS, “It was discovered on the banks of the Danube River, in Austria, and it was most likely made by hunter-gatherers who lived in the area. ” During ancient times, food was scarce.
People would eat whatever food they could get their hands on. When there was food available, dopamine, which is a neurochemical that plays a mojor role in reward driven learning, motivated the people to eat as much as they could. Dopamine triggers the chemical DeltaFosB. This chemical is also known as the binge chemical, “A ‘binge mechanism’ is an evolutionary advantage in situations where survival is furthered by overriding normal satiety. Think of wolves, which need to stow away up to twenty pounds of a single kill at one go.
Or our ancestors, who needed to store high-quality calories as a few extra pounds for easy transport to survive hard times. Or mating season, when there’s a harem to impregnate. In the past, such opportunities were rare and passed quickly” (Yourbrainonporn. com). The Venus of Willendorf is a depiction of how human nature takes control of the brain in the presence of a food surplus. The Venus of Willendorf is a symbol of vitality, for she would survive during famine.

Additionally, the artist who created the Venus of Willendorf was influenced by environment in which he or she lived in. “The people who made this statue lived in a harsh ice-age environment where features of fatness and fertility would have been highly desirable. In neurological terms, these features amounted to hyper-normal stimuli that activate neuron responses in the brain. So in Paleolithic people terms, the parts that mattered most had to do with successful reproduction – the breasts and pelvic girdle.
Therefore, these parts were isolated and amplified by the artist’s brain” (PBS). Thus, the Venus of Willendorf was an attractive sight for it left its possessor daydreaming of a happier civilization where children survive beyond childbirth and food is unlimited. The Venus of Willendorf was the ideal woman in a successful society at the time of its creation, for her figure evokes two very important parts of maintaining a civilization: food and offspring. Because of DeltaFosB, our brains are chemically geared to eat when there is food around.
James Kettlewell describes this phenomenon without science in regards to The Venus, “Consider when and where this Venus of Willendorf lived, when all food had to be gathered or killed, and its availability was never guaranteed. In her age corpulence would have made the most positive kind of statement. ” The Venus of Willendorf’s large figure represents food and the process of feeding. The overconsumption of food leads a concentration of DeltaFosB in the brain; when people of hunter and gatherer societies ate, DeltaFosB stimulated them to eat as much as possible.
If there were an abundance of food, the DeltaFosB response from dopamine would produce figures like Venus of Willendorf. Venus of Willendorf’s large figure stimulated the thought of food in 22,000-24,000 BC when she was erected. Advances in food storage and childbearing techniques has made The Venus of Willendorf less of idolized figure, for there is social stigma with being fat in western society, but many countries in impoverished societies idolize fat. As a rite of passage in Nigeria, girls spend time in a fattening room.
At the end of the three-month process, the women are believed to be more beautiful. Ann M. Simmons, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times visited Nigeria to write an article about the female lifestyle, “The fattening room is at the center of a centuries-old rite of passage from maidenhood to womanhood. The months spent in pursuit of poundage are supplemented by daily visits from elderly matrons who impart tips on how to be a successful wife and mother. Nowadays, though, girls who are not yet marriage-bound do a tour in the rooms purely as a coming-of-age ceremony.
And sometimes, nursing mothers return to the rooms to put on more weight” (1). The Nigerian Gross Domestic Product per capita in 2011 was $1,452, while in the U. S. the Gross Domestic Product per capita was $48,422. It seems that poverty directly affects a societies’ perception of fatness. Tonga, Samoa, and Micronesia, countries that celebrate fatness, have GDP per capitas of $4,168, $3,532 and $2,852 and overweight percentages of 90. 8, 91. 1 and 80. 4, respectively. According to toptenz. net, “Excessive fatness continues to be embraced by many countries as a sign of health, wealth and happiness. Additionally, this website continued to use Tonga and Samoa as exemplar countries that acknowledge this type of beauty. Could it be that the development of western civilization has changed the ideal citizen? In America fitness is seen as a necessity for fitting into the culture. Those who can afford a gym membership and are able to use it have more influence over the perception of beauty and fertility, for the fit citizens are often wealthier. The countries that celebrate fatness maintain a semblance of the hunter/gather society that created the Venus of Willendorf.
An archaeologist in a special for PBS said that the Willendorf is, “Indicative of a general human tendency-wishful thinking. What you are seeing is altered or modified in order to give you a heightened experience…If what’s important to is the breast, hips and buttocks, then you’re stretching them out to get more gratification from the statue than the woman sitting next to you. ” These eloquent words apply not only to the Venus, but also to the young women in the feeding huts in Nigeria. The aspects of a woman that are considered beautiful are exaggerated in order to make them more beautiful.
Besides beauty, The Venus of Willendorf is well equipped for childbearing, for she has wide hips, and her breasts are well stocked for feeding a child. In times of famine, The Venus would survive. In Nigeria, elders who give advice about being a good mother and wife accompany women who spend time in fattening huts. Being fat is part of being a good mother in Nigeria. The Venus of Willendorf is a symbol of the same traits demonstrated in Nigeria, but the image of the Venus was only a pipe dream for the Paleolithic people.
Their ideal woman would have been a spitting image of Venus, but the citizens of the long gone civilization did not have the technology to live the fantasical lifestyle of the Venus of Willendorf Words:1126 Works Cited Kettlewell, James. “Rethinking Classic Themes in Art History. ” James Kettlewell:The Venus of Willendorf. N. p. , n. d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. . Wilson, Gary. “Start Here for an Overview of Key Concepts. ” Your Brain On Porn. N. p. , 12 May 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. . Simmons, Ann M. “Where Fat Is a Mark of Beauty. Editorial. Los Angeles Times 23 Sept. 1998: 1-2. PROFESSOR SCHUTZER’S WEB PAGE. Pierce College. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. . Duvall, Susan. “Top 10 Countries Celebrating Female Obesity. ” Top 10 Lists. N. p. , 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. . “GDP per Capita (current US$). ” Data. The World Bank, 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. . Streib, Lauren. “World’s Fattest Countries. ” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 8 Feb. 2007. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. . “Venus of Willendorf: An Exaggerated Beauty. ” PBS. PBS, 2006. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. .

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