Posted by: siobhananderson | October 27, 2010

Neoclassicism and Pears’ Soap for the Complexion

While reading Loeb’s first chapters from Consuming Angels, I was particularly struck by what Loeb articulates as “the middle class desire to be thought different from the common herd.” This along with the notion that luxury goods were in some way a representation of a democratized society made me really take a longer look at the advertisement for Pears Soap advertisement on pg. 11. (I tried to find the advertisment online to include with this post, but no such luck)

The use of neoclassicism in paitings, drawings, plays, architecture and decor has always been an evocation of regaining something that has died away in an effort to render it newly fashionable or unarguably elegant. From the columns in the background to the robes worn by the two figures, the advertisement represents itself as not only an excellent choice for soap, but an ancient even just selection for all of your facial washing needs.

In this advertisement the evocation of neoclassicism implies the sort of divine simplicity in living shared by the Gods in ancient Greek and Roman legends. The idea of purity is also present throughout the advertisement, as the figures’ skin is as ivory white and firm as the columns standing straight behind them, the child, naked, is giggling and flowers fall around the base of a Classic looking vase. The word “pure” is in fact written at the bottom of the illustration.

The neoclassicism present in this advertisement seemed to me a perfect reflection of this Victorian middle-class desire for material luxury. Though the advertisement evokes a sort of strength in simplicity there is the undeniable undertone of elegance, even wealth. Soap here does not only represent cleaniness, but even a sort of elevation of the body to that of the Gods. I looked online for more advertisements touched by neoclassicism but did not see any…. was anyone else able to find anything?


  1. I found two examples of vintage advertisements (not sure when they are from) that I think embody your description of the desire for the classical.

    Both images present the female Goddess figure in flowing robes, about to imbibe their product. As you said in your post, these images appeal to consumers who desire the “divine simplicity… shared by the Gods in ancient Greek and Roman legends.”

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