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The Metamorphoses of FatA History of Obesity$
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Georges Vigarello

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159760

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159760.001.0001

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Exploring Images, Defining Terms

Exploring Images, Defining Terms

(p.55) 7. Exploring Images, Defining Terms
The Metamorphoses of Fat

Georges Vigarello

, C. Jon Delogu
Columbia University Press

This chapter describes how a new curiosity about size expressed itself in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through more developed iconographies and a wider array of terms for thin and fat. Engravings and paintings attempted more than before to represent the heavy person, to give visible detail to the apparent shortening of the limbs, the squashed neck, and the flabby chin and cheeks. The associated terminology tried to suggest nuances in the absence of all quantified measurements. New words attempted to express degrees of profiles beyond the sorts of insults already mentioned. These gradations remained obscure and vague, however, and often of limited use. There were, at any rate, more terms available in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to specify levels of bigness, whereas they had been extremely rare in the medieval period, even if odd combinations did persist. For example, in his Diverses Leçons from 1604, Louis Guyon associated thickness and tallness as characteristics of “corpulence,” whereas he associated thinness and shortness with being skinny—as though for him no one could be both short and fat.

Keywords:   fat, fat people, body size, thin, sixteenth century, seventeenth century, bigness, Diverses Leçons, Louis Guyon, corpulence

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