Adam Smith on slaves to fashion

Not a perfect analogy, but a disturbing anecdote and an intriguing comparison:

portrait-bianca-ponzoni-anguissola-100x127“Some of the savage nations in North America tie four boards round the heads of their children, and thus squeeze them, while the bones are tender and gristly, into a form that is almost perfectly square. Europeans are astonished at the absurd barbarity of this practice, to which some missionaries have imputed the singular stupidity of those nations among whom it prevails. But when they condemn those savages, they do not reflect that the ladies in Europe had, till within the very few years, been endeavouring for near a century to squeeze the beautiful roundness of their natural shape into a square form of the same kind.”

That’s from Smith’s 1759 The Theory of Moral Sentiments, IV.1, p. 326.

The image is Sofonisba Anguissola’s Portrait of Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola.

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