In the summer of 1893, American audiences were introduced to the perfect man. EugenSandow was a Prussian-born strongman whose sinewy physique was instantly lauded as the height of physical perfection. To mark his distance from laboring classes and colonized peoples, the theatrics of Sandow’s presentation positioned him as a modern incarnation of classical beauty. But influential as he was, Sandow was not the only physical embodiment of corporeal perfection Americans plucked from antiquity. Another contender for the title of the perfect man was Jesus. The contours of manhood coded in Sandow’s sinew were rendered in contemporaneous depictions of Jesus as the model physical type. The face of Jesus was not simply mimeographed onto Sandow’s flesh. Instead, a language of physical perfection and attending visual and imaginative strategies of representation linked Jesus and Sandow—American Christianity and American manhood—in minds and bodies. Rather than compare Jesus and the strongman, this article explores visual regimes of late nineteenth-century American masculinity to demonstrate the mutual articulation of religious and national imaginaries through visual iconographies of race.


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pp. 23-47
Launched on MUSE
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