History of Beauty
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History of Beauty

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  13,556 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Now in paperback, Umberto Eco’s groundbreaking and much-acclaimed first illustrated book has been a critical success since its first publication in 2004. What is beauty? Umberto Eco, among Italy’s finest and most important contemporary thinkers, explores the nature, the meaning, and the very history of the idea of beauty in Western culture. The profound and subtle text is...more
Hardcover, 438 pages
Published November 13th 2004 by Rizzoli (first published 2004)
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Really a 3 1/2 star book, but since that's not an option...

This book is misnamed, really "dictionary of Beauty" would be a closer title, while "Umberto Eco's Musings on Beauty in a loosely chronological order with occasionaly quotes about beauty from other thinkers and a boatload of pictures" would probably hit closest to home. Undoubtedly the publisher shot that title down and stuck History of Beauty in its place.

Strengths: Each individual section is fairly informative and interesting to read....more
Even if I agree with most of the reproaches this book received (that it is more a guide than a study, that it is more a triumph of compression than of clarity, that it is too eclectic and so on) I have to say I really enjoyed it.
Is this a consequence of my great admiration for Umberto Eco or of my dilettantism in art, I'm not sure (and I won't dig, so back off!). Anyway, I think the author completed his objectives, enumerated in Introduction:
- to identify Beauty as a thing pleasing to contemplat...more
It's not really a book you read cover to cover, and I guess some of the disappointment many people may feel comes from them picking it up and reading it like that. It is a dictionary a reference, it should open people's mind up to further investigate and research. As someone said the book does reflect his personal opinions and musings, but just by flicking though the book many times I have found myself diving deeper into periods, artists, works of art, techniques etc.
Apr 23, 2013 Bjorn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: italy
It's an interesting topic: what is beauty? It might seem like a trivial question, but think about it: esthetics run through everything we do. Everything we read, watch, listen to, right down to the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the cans we buy food in are made to correspond to some standard of beauty. Where does all that come from? What makes us think a Rolls looks better than a Datsun? What makes Dickens a better writer than Stephenie Meyer? Why did medieaval Christ figures look triumph...more
This book takes a lot of stamina to go through. The concept is quite easy: each chapter contains a short description of the period in question and its understanding of beauty, accompanied by important artworks and primary literature. These chapters are often just 3-5 pages. Nevertheless it's hard to read (weird layout, at least in the german edition, and hard to understand primary texts without comments) and boring at times. It doesn't feel like a cohesive book, but rather like lecture notes put...more
Atefeh ahmadi
ترجمه‌ی فرانسه‌ی این کتاب رو گرفتم از کتابخونه و دلم گرفت از این چیزی که الان به فارسی هست. حجم کتاب سه برابره و پر از تصویره. یه سری تابلوی تطبیقی ساخته اولش از همه‌ی ونوس‌ها و آدونیس‌ها که خودش به تنهایی جذابه. درسته که خیلی از عکس‌ها قابل چاپ نبودن اما من نمی‌دونم چرا تابلوهای تطبیقی مریم مقدس و مسیح هم حذف شدن،صرفن برای این که حجم‌ش کم‌تر شه و ارزون‌تر درآد؟!‏
The book originally was presented as a CD-Rom. Although I like books, I think the idea of the writer would be better experienced in an interactive webpage or digital media. Because a page limits you to what is in it or its neighbours, or a shorter or longer search for a glimpsed idea. Hyperlink and search functions really help to compare what is in common and to spot the differences.

The book deals with the idea of beauty, and how it has changed through time and cultures, using works of art as th...more
Compré La Historia de la Belleza para mi tesis sobre estética. Estudio Filosofía y al momento de hacer una tesis sobre estética creo que ya tengo algo de información al respecto, "por este motivo y sólo por este" no recomiendo el libro; es decir no lo recomiendo si lo buscas con fines de investigación académicos.

Sin embargo, es un excelente libro de refrencia para profundizar con otras investigaciones. Es una aproximación a "la belleza" con un lenguaje muy ameno, directo y simple que no complica...more
Ioannis Savvas
Μια εμπεριστατωμένη μελέτη της προοπτικής της Ομορφιάς στο πέρασμα των αιώνων. Μια πανοραμική απεικόνιση της αντίληψης του ανθρώπου για το Ωραίο. Μέσα από την τέχνη και τη φιλοσοφία. Ένα ταξίδι στον τρόπο σκέψης των ανθρώπων για ένα από τα σημαντικότερα αγαθά της ζωής. Η Ομορφιά μέσα από τη θρησκεία, την καθημερινή ζωή, τον έρωτα, τη διαστροφή, ακόμα και μέσα από την Ασχήμια.

Μια καταπληκτική έκδοση των Εκδόσεων Καστανιώτη, με υψηλή ποιότητα χαρτιού και εκτύπωσης, άριστες φωτογραφίες έργων τέχνης...more
Barry Marks
To begin, I have to confess that I am a huge Umberto Eco fan. I have enjoyed reading both fiction and non-fiction books penned by him. My only regret is that I have to read English translations as I am not going to learn Italian at this stage of my life.

This book to me is a post- modernist history of the concept of beauty. I have enjoyed reading cover to cover when I first got it and to this day still enjoy rereading parts of it and pursuing the many illustrations and examples of beauty and art...more
Julia Boechat Machado
A História da Beleza de Umberto Eco não trata da beleza apenas nas pinturas explicada em textos curtos e fáceis, como foi propagandeado. Ele trata enciclopedicamente da beleza em várias formas, auxiliado por citações.
É um ótimo livro para ler do início ao fim, de forma a melhor entender a evolução dos conceitos de beleza, mas também é um bom livro para ler aos poucos e focar nos conceitos de cada época, e também um bom livro de referência, ou seja, um bom livro para reler várias vezes.
Laura Contreras
Feb 06, 2014 Laura Contreras marked it as to-read
Lo estuve hojeando, tiene buenas imágenes....leí algunos pasajes, se ve interesante XD
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 27, 2013 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art

I had to simply assign myself to get through the book. Though I read the book and made an honest attempt to absorb a goodly amount of the information, I suspect that I missed entire theses in my reading.

One reason is that the writing in supported with both images and text. Before I began the book I thought it was mostly an art historical history of beauty. I didn't realize how great a role writing, especially poetry and philosophy, would play in the theories expressed and discussed in the...more
Basically a tour of the art movements over time. Avoiding the big word "Art" next to history, this book is not really about the history of art. It is concerned with beauty.

You'd know better, "What is beauty?" is basically an absurd question to ask. I still found it a good read anyways. A book to leave around the house to crack open at random places - ooh! pretty pictures! And some interesting lines.

Liked the last few chapters the best.

Of most interest to me:

The beauty of machines

The beauty of t...more
Absolutely disappointing. It's just another collection of selected paragraphs and quotes from historical and philosophical essays concerning Beauty and other aesthetical categories like the Picturesque or the Sublime, with some extra explanations. I expected it to be a new essay by Mr. Eco himself, but his presence and touch on the subject approached is almost inexistent or unnoticeable. Plus, a quite expensive book. So, if you're already into History of Art or Philosophy, don't even think about...more
This was a bit of a tough read in that it could be slightly boring at times and also lacked a coherent organization or scheme. True, Eco's main point is that there is not necessarily a theme to beauty, but this nonetheless made it a tougher read.

The included philosophic tidbits were great and well selected, though I felt some added context would have helped overall. The images chosen were great, and almost always helped in understanding the ideas being presented.

Overall, decent, but my biggest...more
Although from time to time the writing is a little muddled or the thinking confused, on the whole the short overview sections give a coherent explanation of Eco's understanding of how our thinking about beauty has developed. The overviews are embedded within copious images of paintings, scultures, as well as excerpts from treatises and other texts. These are wonderful.

Am borrowing this book from a friend, but would love a copy of my own. Would go back to it often.
Sep 14, 2010 Caroline marked it as to-read
I got this for Christmas ages ago and I think it's wedged into a back bookcase. Harper's reposted their review of it though and I might go back:

The sensible George Santayana observed that beauty begins with sensation: what we immediately, and especially what children like immediately, is the best proof of sincerity. And when "sincerity is lost, and a snobbish ambition is substituted, bad taste comes in."
Kaid Abulatif
أومبيرتو ايكو جميل يكتب عن الجمال، كتابه الجديد جماليتة تضاهي الجمال الفني عن عنوان القبح الفني أجمل ثنائي فني يزين مكتبتنا في البيت:-)
Not for the weak of heart, INTENSIVE study on the History of beauty in all terms, terminologies, art, era, etc. Great book.
This book clearly shows its origin as an electronic resource casually dealing with aesthetics. Not only is it not a "study", but it can feel rather fragmented and incoherent throughout. Eco and De Michele seem to intend this book to serve as "a history" of beauty rather than "the history", if one exists at all—it reads most like the textbook for an introductory survey course in art history/aesthetics.

I think this book does a decent job at striking the balance between a somewhat in-depth, insight...more
Well-researched, readable, with lots of pretty pictures if you're into that kind of thing. A couple of qualifications:

1. He is obviously most concerned with literary and fine arts, mostly ignoring decorative arts, architecture, performing arts, etc.
2. He leans heavily on literary and artistic figures probably less well-known outside Eco's native Italy.
3. His analysis tends to begin somewhat abstruse in the early chapters and really becomes engaging around the Renaissance and Enlightenment. (e.g...more
Jochen De Vos
De geschiedenis van de schoonheid. Het klinkt subjectief. Het is eerder objectief gestaafd naar alle mensen die kunnen in- en uitademen. Al heb ik na het lezen - al is het eerder onderzoeken - van dit boek een bepaalde leegte die nog steeds moet ingevuld worden. De titel (en onderwerp) van het boek is zo ruim, dat niet voor iedereen alle verwachtingen ingevuld kunnen worden. Of zoals ik net hoorde op Terzake over Congo, het boek van David van Reybroeck, dat de stof te groot is om neer te pennen...more
Procyon Lotor
Il bello ha dei canoni precisi, il brutto, invece Il bello ha dei canoni precisi, il brutto, invece, lascia spazio all'immaginazione, perch� pu� ispirare sia disgusto sia piet�. E ogni epoca ha le sue regole. U.E. L'indice dei capitoli vale mezza recensione: I - L'ideale estetico nella Grecia II - Apollineo e Dionisiaco III - La Bellezza come proporzione e armonia IV - La luce e il colore nel Medioevo V - La Bellezza dei mostri VI - Dalla pastorella alla donna angelica VII - La bellezza magica t...more
Aug 11, 2013 Afshin is currently reading it
I have the paperback edition and on page 63 there seems to be a typo. This is what it says in my book:

The Pythagoreans were the first to study the that govern musical sounds, the proportion on which intervals are based, and the relationship between the length of a string and the pitch of a note.

If anyone can clarify what the sentence should say please let me know.
Gal gilboa
"Death and beauty are two concepts Rabbi - meaning that contain within them many blue and a lot of black, and together like a pair of brothers who Infringing the world by the same riddle, by the same mystery." John Keats
I could't put it any better than this even if I wanted to
I loved this book. It is basically an art book that looks at beauty (human, architecture, machines, scenes) throughout history. It was very interesting comparing the concepts of beauty over time. I found the book quite intriguing, intellectual, and enjoyable.
The pictures were gorgeous, the prose impenetrable.
As someone who prides myself on being able to keep up with Umberto Eco's fiction (with the assistance of several classical language dictionaries, of course) and even some of his non-fiction, "History of Beauty" was so intensely academic as to not be enjoyable for me as light summer reading (although it would make an excellent text for an advanced university-level course on art history). I did, however, gain much from the book just by looking at the pictures (which comprise ~70% of the book) and...more
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Umberto Eco is an Italian writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children's books, and certainly one of the finest authors of the twentieth century. A professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, Eco’s brilliant fiction is known for its playful use of language and symbols, its astonishing array of allusions and references, and clever use of puzzles and narrative inventions. His per...more
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