The conception of bodily beauty in “La Culture Physique”: Researching the ideal of antiquity

By Philippe Campillo, Alessandro Porrovecchio

Physical culture, strength training and bodybuilding maintain and develop muscles through specific training methods for wellness and body aesthetics. During competitions, the plastic beauty of subjects is evaluated, compared and classified. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the perceptible and quantifiable indices of plastic beauty have engaged the candidates and the judges of these competitions. This concern for plastic body evaluation, not forgetting health and strength, has been present in the corpus of the journal “La Culture Physique” since its creation by Edmond Desbonnet in 1904. In the promotion of “health, beauty, strength” through training, two tendencies concerning bodybuilding span the second half of the twentieth century. One concerns the initial quest for harmonic balance, referring to measures inspired by antiquity; the other appeared after 1945, focusing on the glorification of voluminal hypertrophy and mass disproportion as signs of excellence. Based on this framework, our study approaches the analysis of several articles in the “La Culture Physique” journal, dealing with aesthetic appreciation. It reveals the scientific and cultural filiations that contributed to the development of a certain bodybuilding influence with well-defined aesthetic sensibilities, quantifying the harmony ideal according to various sculptural models from antiquity, in particular Polykleitos’ Doryphoros for the expression of beauty, in opposition to the embodiment of strength in the Farnese Hercules.


  • body aesthetics
  • model of beauty
  • sculpture
  • weight training
Go to the article on