The physiognomy of faces, their shape and color, and the shape and complexion of bodies are fascinating and frequently contested topics in anthropological discussions of national physical beauty. The beauty of Spanish men and women astounded many anthropologists, tourists, and other people.
Many people all over the world recognized Spain’s beauty. Foreign visitors remarked on the black eyes and long black eyelashes of Spanish women. They are all in agreement that “Spain’s dark-glancing daughters” are the most beautiful women.
The French, German, Italian, English, and American observers all agree that Spanish beauty has excellent anthropological qualities. Many Europeans consider Italian and Spanish people to be particularly attractive.
Scholars in the 19th century thought that the unique features of Spanish faces and bodies came from the mixing of many different cultures and body types that moved to Spain over time.
What Do Foreign Travelers Think of Beautiful Spanish Women?
Here is an interesting observation of a writer in “Macmillan’s Magazine” (1874), a literary periodical that published non-fiction and fiction articles from mostly British authors. The author refers to “the stately upright walk of the Spanish ladies and the graceful carriage of the head.”
Then the author of the article notes that a mother would not let her daughter carry a basket. Otherwise, this would
“destroy her “queenly walk”; and “her dull eye too will grow moist with a tear, and her worn face will kindle with absolute softness and sweetness, if an English señor expresses his admiration of her child’s magnificent hair or flashing black eyes.”
The same author also describes a scene he saw along the Guadalquiver, which may explain why Spanish women are so physically fit and full of life:
“An old mill-house, with its clumsy wheel and a couple of pomegranates, shaded one corner of this part of the river; and under their shade, sitting up to their shoulders in the water, on the huge round boulders of which the bottom of the river is composed, were groups of Spanish ladies. Truly it was a pretty sight! They sat as though on chairs, clothed to the neck in bathing-gowns of the gaudiest colours—red, gray, yellow, and blue; and, holding in one hand their umbrellas, and with the other fanning themselves, they formed a most picturesque group.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).
Washington Irving, an American writer and historian from the early 1800s, wrote the following about a beautiful Spanish woman he saw on a coast steamer:
“A young married lady, of about four or five and twenty, middle-sized, finely-modelled, a Grecian outline of face, a complexion sallow yet healthful, raven black hair, eyes dark, large, and beaming, softened by long eyelashes, lips full and rosy red, yet finely chiselled, and teeth of dazzling whiteness. Her hand … is small, exquisitely formed, with taper fingers, and blue veins. I never saw a female hand more exquisite.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 519).
When the husband of this young woman saw that Washington Irving seemed to be drawing her, he asked him what was going on. Irving read his sketch to the man, who was very appreciative. This episode sparked a wonderful, albeit brief, friendship between the two.
In another letter to a friend, Washington Irving writes:
“There are beautiful women in Seville as … there are in all other great cities; but do not, my worthy and inquiring friend, expect a perfect beauty to be staring you in the face at every turn, or you will be awfully disappointed. Andalusia, generally speaking, derives its renown for the beauty of its women and the beauty of its landscape, from the rare and captivating charms of individuals. The generality of its female faces are as sunburnt and void of bloom and freshness as its plains. I am convinced, the great fascination of Spanish women arises from their natural talent, their fire and soul, which beam through their dark and flashing eyes, and kindle up their whole countenance in the course of an interesting conversation. As I have had but few opportunities of judging them in this way, I can only criticise them with the eye of a sauntering observer. It is like judging of a fountain when it is not in play, or a fire when it lies dormant and neither flames nor sparkles.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 519).
The English poet Lord Byron (1788–1844), in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” extols the Spanish woman’s”fairy form, with more than female grace”:
“Her glance how wildly beautiful! how much
Hath Phœbus wooed in vain to spoil her cheek,
Which glows yet smoother from his amorous clutch!
Who round the North for paler dames would seek? How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan, and weak!”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).
However, in a letter written from Cadiz, Byron describes both the strengths and weaknesses of Spanish women’ physicality.
“With all national prejudice, I must confess, the women of Cadiz are as far superior to the English women in beauty, as the Spaniards are inferior to the English in every quality that dignifies the name of man…. The Spanish women are all alike, their education the same…. Certainly they are fascinating; but their minds have only one idea, and the business of their lives is intrigue…. Long black hair, dark languishing eyes, clear olive complexions, and forms more graceful in motion than can be conceived by an Englishman used to the drowsy, listless air of his countrywomen, added to the most becoming dress, and, at the same time, the most decent in the world, render a Spanish beauty irresistible.”(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).