Plus Size Women Throughout History: Women in the Renaissance

Violet Glenton

Violet Glenton

Blogger at Violet Glenton
Blogger, Cake-Lover, History Buff and Amazon Woman.
Violet Glenton

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The Renaissance period is all about beauty and authenticity. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that before the likes of Slimming World, larger women were deemed sexy. There was a sensual attribute to curvy bodies (which I intend to uphold with my own body).

Throughout my series I’ve covered different eras where fat women have been both cherished and frowned upon. It seemed obvious to me to cover a time where they were glorified. There is one era I know did this perfectly well and it is indeed my favourite movement. Enter the Renaissance.

In the Renaissance period these fuller figured women were deemed both powerful and beautiful. You only have to google ‘Renaissance Art’ and boom there they are, fuller figured beauties. Go on do it. You’ll find Mona Lisa (the broad shouldered thick skinned wonder), Titian’s gorgeous laid out nudes and other famous works. In the Renaissance it was deemed fashionable to be on the heavier side. Firstly, it showed you had a bit in your pocket. I covered this in the Venus of Willendorf and the preconception still stands in this era. OH and of course, some believed that fuller figured women had key signs of fertility (larger breasts and bigger hips) and this meant they were in high demand when men were hunting for a bride. This is again another topic that gets carried through in different eras of art and something I’m sure I’ll touch upon again.

The Renaissance saw the popularity and fashion that came with being on the chubbier side. In fact, some saw that being ‘skinny’ was unattractive.

Titian, the stud of the Renaissance saw a beauty and purity in the nude art form. Some of his works were deemed too beautiful for public appearance and were therefore kept in hidden quarters (check out the Venus of Urbino). Looking at Titian’s Woman in a Mirror we meet a chunky gal prepping herself for a rad night out. What is most noticeable is the curves of the woman’s figured and the shape she creates within the frame. Her face echoes the roundness of the mirror and this a harmonious classical layout.

Plus Size Women Throughout History

Titian, Women in a Mirror, 1512-1515 Image Courtesy of the Louvre.

It’s likely this piece later inspired Rubens to paint Venus Before a Mirror, another piece which better represents artists harking back to the Renaissance. In this case, Rubens has shown a girl with stunning love handles and rosy cheeks. I mean her face, of course


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Plus Size Women Throughout History

Rubens, Woman Before a Mirror, 1613-14 Image Courtesy of Liechtenstein Museum.

So looking at the term Renaissance, we can begin to understand why this ‘fatshion’ came about. The term Renaissance actually translates as ‘Rebirth’, a time to reflect on the pure art form and true beauty of the human body. Looking at classical sculpture, women are often curvaceous and dreamy. There are of course, as with everything, varying portrayals of body types and this is a good thing. All body types should be represented.

The paintings we can view to understand the Renaissance act as fashion magazines for us. A key trend in these is nude large women. Now isn’t that reassuring?