I’ve read a few times, around the internet, people who have asserted that “our ancestors weren’t fat”, and therefore, obesity cannot be hereditary. I’ve been wanting to examine the evidence of this for a while.
The movie Fiddler on the Roof,released in 1971, was set in Czarist Russia 1905. One of the lines in the song “If I Were a Rich Man”, Tevye sings “I’d see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man’s wife, with a proper double chin” (about 2:41 into the video).
That’s a fictional character singing about fictional life in fictional Russia, you say? Okay, I can understand that. How many times has Hollywood gotten something wrong historically because it made for better pictures (don’t even get me started on the clothing in different movies set in the middle ages, we’ll be here all year). So, how about some paintings from artists in the middle ages?
This was painted by Christoph Amberger in 1531.
She definitely has the “proper double chin”.
Definitely a double chin, definitely not a skinny woman.
I’m getting all these links from The Web Gallery of Art, and am only halfway into the A’s. I’ll stop at three pictures because any more and I know this will eat up the loading time of people on dial up.
One of the things I know about artists in the middle ages is that they were paid to make their subjects look good. Much like commercial artists of today, if they didn’t make their patrons (customers) happy, they didn’t get paid. They could even lose the patronage of powerful people. So, painting these people fat shows that this was a desirable trait. The “proper double chin” Tevye sings about in “If I Were a Rich Man”.
The point I’m making, here, is some of our ancestors were fat, just as some of us are. People who think obesity just started in the 20th Century haven’t looked into history. While I know that not everybody is a history geek like me, or likes geeking out at museums or on museum sites on the web, it’s very easy to find out what were common body types in ages previous to ours. Paintings I didn’t post, but you’ll see if you go to that web gallery, will show thin, normal and fat people, in all walks of life, in all socio-economic standings.
Much like you see, in real life, today. Amazing how we really haven’t changed a lot in a few hundred years.