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Beauty Past & Present

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” (William Wordsworth) or “I looked at the rose and said it is beautiful, it became beautiful” (Rabindranath Tagore).

No matter what the poets may say, the concept of beauty in the end lies with the beholden. What the particular individual being perceives to be appropriate in her eyes. This concept is based on the socio-cultural interaction of the individual and her perception of what is beautiful. Beauty in itself is a relative term, with wide variations in its concept.

Its perception varies from age to age, from civilization to civilisation, from culture to culture and from individual to individual. What is beautiful in Japan might not be beautiful in India and a beauty of the fifteenth century maybe may be entirely different from the one of twenty-first century.

The concept of beauty is a dynamic process and its assessment pertains to a particular race over a particular period of time.

Though there may be variations with age and civilization, as well as individual perception, yet when a cosmetic surgeon is confronted with converting a human face from normal to super-normal, he is at a loss as to where to start off with. Variations can be handled, provided the base. So first and foremost he has to learn the baseline.  This means he has to have conceptions of art.

So while performing this art, it is important to consider the profile in respect to her ethnic origin (eg.Bengali) and also understand the modern concept of a Bengali beauty. The first and foremost is a definition of normality. Leonardo da Vinci has been the pillar stone of this definition, when he described the proportions of human face and the body. And it was Michelangelo who carved it in form.  But that remained as a masterpiece over centuries until in 1857 when the authorities of the prison at San Quentin ordered first cosmetic surgery of the prisoners to improve their mental health. This put forward a new concept by Aldus Adler “Concept of Body Image”. To understand beauty and the patient’s requirements, one has to be familiar with her conception of body image.

As building of a house is dependent on its structural framework, so the definition of this normality has been the ground framework on which- individual, ethnic, socio-cultural variations are embalmed.  Obviously the concept is a dynamic process, changing its colours and parameters with time, but the basic ground framework always remains the same. Though certain basic parameters have been laid down in the aesthetic framework of cosmetic surgery, yet it is the surgeon’s own perception of the patient. Sometimes the patient may desire, something which ‘she’ feels might look good, but the surgeon may perceive it otherwise. Unless the surgeon and the patient can meet on a common platform, it is best not to have cosmetic surgery.

Once equipped with the grammar and aesthetics of art, and the concept of body image, the cosmetic surgeon endeavours to carve the aesthetics of human face. In other words, he makes it beautiful and attractive. But having done all these, does she still look beautiful?

In this lecture, rather than talk about the subject, which might be too technical, I will try to treatise a philosophy of the conceptual change of beauty over centuries and our human perceptions of it, related to various generations, race and culture.