Jo's Art History Podcast / 28. The 'Ideal' Female Form in Art with Bryony Large

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Episode notes

Welcome back to the Jo’s Art History Podcast 

Today I sit down with art historian Bryony Large for a brilliant conversation discussing the changing representation of the female figure throughout art history and what is/was considered as ‘the ideal female form.’

This is a massive topic as you can imagine and Bryony has done an amazing job at selecting 4 corner stone works from within the Canon of Art History as a way of introducing this topic and to get you thinking about the changing perception of the female form.

We discuss the male gaze in classical art history in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and what is arguably believed to be the first painting ever that sees a woman own her sexuality,  Manet’s Olympia.

We also discuss Jenny Saville, an artist who as Bryony so brilliantly puts it is ‘the destroyer of false fetishes’ as well as discussing the lack of representation of disabled bodies and why Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper sculpture is so important to make you think and look again at not only what we do see, but what we do not see represented within art!


Bryony Large




Jo McLaughlin



Works discuss & Further Reading:

1) Birth of Venus (1485/86) by Sandro Botticelli

Great Artsy Article about the Importance of Venus in culture:

The male gaze:

Women in Art:

2) Olympia (1863) by Edouard Manet


3) Propped (1992) by Jenny Saville


4) Alison Lapper Pregnant (2005) by Marc Quinn (sculpture)

Guardian Article:

Alison Lapper Website: