Any material object that, by dint of its characteristics, gives a feeling of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction, is considered beautiful. Beauty has been variously defined by some great philosophers and other scholars. Plato said, ‘What is beautiful, is good’, while Aristotle linked beauty with virtue, saying, ‘Virtue aims at the beautiful.’ Anatole France opined that beauty is ‘more profound than truth itself.’ In the early 19th century the western scientists considered beauty as a measurable thing and benchmarked the Greek gods, considered as the most beautiful, scoring 100 points. According to their ranking, the Europeans scored 80, the Asians and Negroes scored 70, while chimpanzees and orangutans scored 58. In the 19th century a beautiful woman was considered to be white, plump, with prominent bosom, wide hips, smooth skin, long silky hair and an expressive, symmetrical face, looks and body. An hourglass figure with waist-hip ratio of 0.7 was considered a benchmark of beauty.
1. Lillie Langtry
Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, better known as Lillie Langtry, was born to Rev. William Corbet and Emilie Davis, on October 13, 1853 in Jersey, U.S. and died on February 12, 1929 at the age of 75 years in Monte Carlo. Her mother was the most beautiful woman in the region in her town and Lillie Langtry was beautiful by birth. In May 1877, she was invited by Lady Sabright to an evening in her home and she became a celebrity overnight. The best artists of the time were impressed by her looks and the elites of the area invited her to their parties. Oscar Wilde promoted her as an actress. She opened her own theatrical company and a winery. Her city was named after her. She is one of the most beautiful women of the world, who appeared all of a sudden on the horizon of fame, and left the celebrities of her time far behind.
2. Lillian Russell
Lillian Russell was born to Charles E. Leonard and Cynthia Leonard on December 4, 1860 in Clinton, Iowa and died on June 6, 1922 at the age of 61 years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was known for stunning beauty, elegant style and for her unique, sweet voice. Her mother was the first female mayor of New York City. She was raised in Chicago. She started playing roles in comic operas and continued until the end of the 19th century. She had married four times and was known for her extravagant lifestyle.
3. Caroline, ‘La Belle Otero
Caroline, ‘La Belle Otero was born on November 4, 1868 at Valga, Spain and died on April 12,1965 at the age of 96 years in Niaz, France. During her childhood, she worked as a maid in Santiago de Compostela and was subjected to child abuse. At the age of 14 years she started working as a singer and dancer in Lisbon. She was known for her love affairs with King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Prince Albert, Russian Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholas, Kings of Serbia and Kings of Spain, as well as the Duke of Westminster and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio.
4. Mata Hari
Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod, better known by her stage name, Mata Hari, was born to Adam Zelle and Antje Van der Meulen on August 7, 1876 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands and died on October 15, 1917 in Vincennes, Paris, France. She was a famous exotic dancer and one of the most beautiful courtesans in France in the late 19th century. She was convicted of spying for Germany during the First World War. Having been convicted of espionage, she was executed in France by firing squad. Her life is shrouded in thick layers of mystery, as her case was sealed for one hundred years, leaving the details unknown.
5. Clara Ward
Clara Ward was born to Eber Ward and Catherine on June 17, 1873 in Detroit, Michigan and died on December 9, 1916 at the age of 43 years in Padua, Italy. She was the most famous American celebrity in 1890s, and was popularly known as Princess de Caraman-Chimay. On May 19, 1890, she married Prince Joseph de Caraman-Chimay of Belgium. She was very beautiful and therefore attracted the attention of King Leopold II, obviously to the displeasure of the Queen; therefore, she had to leave, as she was seen as an undesirable person in Belgium.
6. Alice Frederica Keppel
Alice Frederica Keppel, nicknamed as Freddie, was born to Sir William Edmonstone, 4th Baronet, and Mary Elizabeth Edmonstone, on April 29, 1868 in Duntreath Castle, Strathblane, Scotland. She was known as the best hostess of the Edwardian era. She was very beautiful and her charm greatly impressed London society. In 1898 she attracted the attention of the future King Edward VII. She became his mistress and remained with him as such until his last days. Being the mistress of the King, she was highly influential in the British society.
7. Liane de Pougy
Liane de Pougy was born to Pierre Blaise Eugene Chassaigne and Aimee Lopez, on July 2, 1869 in La FlÃƒ¨che, Sarthe, France and died on December 26, 1950 at the age of 81 years, at Lausanne, Switzerland. She started her career as a courtesan with Countess Valtesse de la Bigne. She was one the most beautiful dancers of the 19th century. At the age of 16 years, she married a naval officer Arman Pourpe, but it did not prove a happy marriage and culminated in separation. After the failure of her marriage, she started dancing but also started consuming cocaine and opium. She moved to Paris and became a rival to La Belle Otero.
8. Marie Duplessis
Marie Duplessis was born on January 15, 1824 at Nonant-le-Pin, France and died on February 5, 1847 in Paris, France. At the age of 15 years, she started working in a dress shop in Paris. She was a very beautiful young woman and it did not take long before she realized that the wealthiest people of the higher class were much inclined to seek her company. She became a courtesan and learned to read and write so as to keep herself updated with the contemporary affairs and to converse fluently on the hot topics in the company of the elite of the society. Edouard Vienot had painted her portrait.
9. Evelyn Nesbit
Evelyn Nesbit was born to Winfield Scott Nesbit Evelyn Florence McKenzie, on the Christmas day, December 25, 1884 in Tarentum, Pennsylvania and died on January 17, 1967 at the age of 82 years in Santa Monica, California. She conformed to all the 19th century standards of beauty. She started her career as a teenager and very soon she attracted the attention of the great painters and artists of her time. Her face and figure appeared on all sorts of media used for advertisement. In her teenage years, she attracted the attention of a 47-year-old architect Stanford White. Her jealous, multimillionaire husband, Harry Kendall Thaw murdered Stanford White on June 25, 1906. The case was projected by the media as the trial of the century.
10. Maud Evelyn Craven Jeffries
Maud Evelyn Craven Jeffries was born to James Kenilworth Jeffries and Elizabeth Field Smith on December 14, 1869 near Lula in Mississippi, U.S. She performed at Daly’s Theatre in New York for one year. She debuted in England on December 4, 1890 on The People’s Idol, a Wilson Barrett production. She was a beautiful, tall woman of attractive features, with expressive eyes beautiful face, and was known for her graceful style. After her performance in The Sign of the Cross, on March 28, 1895 in London, she came into prominence and impressed British society.
There are no hard and fast rules to measure beauty, as it is said that ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and what is stunningly beautiful for one, may not be necessarily so for all the others. In addition to the apparent beauty, a beautiful person is assumed also to have the characteristics of inner beauty, which include intelligence, politeness, grace, integrity and elegance. To a few like Keats, beauty is the ultimate truth and the ultimate objective of life. Keats wrote in his famous Ode on a Grecian Urn,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”that is all.
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’