Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages

by
3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  559 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In this volume, the Italian novelist and playwright Umberto Eco aims to present a learned summary of mediaeval aesthetic ideas. Juxtaposing theology and science, poetry and mysticism, Eco explores the relationship that existed between the aesthetic theories and the artistic experience and practice of mediaeval culture.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published February 8th 2002 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 1986)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian MortimerEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirA World Lit Only by Fire by William R. Manchester1453 by Roger Crowley
Best Medieval History Books
13th out of 395 books — 139 voters
Ways of Seeing by John BergerHistory of Beauty by Umberto EcoBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingRites of Spring by Modris EksteinsThe Complete Paintings and Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci
The World History of Art
29th out of 307 books — 62 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,522)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sara
Umberto Eco wrote this short treatise 50-some years ago. It was re-released in the 80s (after the success of Name of the Rose, I hazard the guess?) in a new translation with a new, humble introduction by the author. It is still an engaging read for anyone interested in medieval art or the development, in general, of western aesthetics.

Like most medievalists, Eco writes of medieval thought as though he were defending its intelligence, complexity and dignity from virulent detractors. It has been a...more
Greg
Most people know Umberto Eco as a writer of historical fiction, and a fine one at that. In reality, he is a scholar who also writes fiction, as this book clearly demonstrates. Written early in his career and clearly an attempt to correct the misperceptions many people have about medieval philosophy and aesthetics, Eco surveys the major developments within their setting. Eco believes there is a basic misunderstanding about the medieval mind about beauty. Early on, he states: “Ascetics, in all age...more
Scott
This was a lovely book. Eco is such a good historian of ideas, even at the young age at which he wrote this gem. Not many people could weave together the disparate strands of philosophy, theology and art history that Eco does, covering a period ranging over a thousand years but doing so in a way that does not seem rushed or sketchy. It was utterly fascinating, mesmerizing. I'm looking forward even more now to reading some of his historical fiction! Anyone who enjoys medieval history or philosoph...more
Roisin
This is a short but detailed exploration of art and beauty in the Middle Ages in Wester Art and is a good place to start for those who are new or know a bit and enjoy discussion on these areas.

Looking at aesthetics, perception, light, symbol and allegory, theories and the artist and the status of art in relation to ideas, language and terms used, this fascinating study using beliefs and the works of Aquinus, St Bonaventure, St Hildegard, Aristotle, Plato, Dante, William of Auvergne, the Carthusi...more
Claudia
Another very important book! A scholarly study and at its time, a very interesting approach to a story hardly touched by others!
Paul Blaney
Having encountered quite a lot of medieval cathedrals and frescoes during my recent holiday in France, it seemed like a good time to read this book. It came highly recommended and it didn't disappoint. Rare to find a book of such intellectual breadth that remains concise.

Now I can't claim that I followed every twist and turn. My familiarity with the medieval scholars mentioned and quoted throughout is not what it might be! But I still came away with a useful and stimulating sense of the evoluti...more
Helen
A great book, easy to follow and well written. It's interesting to have an understanding of what made something beautiful in the eye of a citizen of the Middle Ages, and indeed how the definition of the word has changed over time.

The one thing I wished had been included, considering this was a book on art and beauty, would be some examples of art from the Middle Ages. I also felt that the book was pretty short, that a topic this broad deserved more than 119 pages.
Christine Rowe
I'll refrain from starring this because a significant percentage of it flew straight over my head (I really need to re-read this book when I'm more familiar with the terminology of medieval theology and philosophy). The parts that I did understand were fascinating and presented beautifully with neutrality & clarity.
Douglas Summers-Stay
Umberto Eco considers questions like: what was the role and status of an artist in the middle ages? How did they conceive of creativity? By what standards did they judge things beautiful? Putting aside their theories, what does their writing betray about how they understood beauty? Most of the answers are heavily weighted by how the Church viewed man's relationship with God.
Chris Griffith
Scholarly philosophical survey of aesthetics in the Middle Ages. A short but heavy book delving into the world of scholasticism, mysticism, neo-Platonism, and nominalism with regards to beauty. Reading it was like alchemy. The fact Eco wrote this at age 24 when he was in the Army (pardon the crass metaphor) but it bloweth meh mind!
Kate
This highly readable introduction to medieval aesthetics is far more accessible than Eco's fiction. The section on Aquinas is the densest chapter, but it's worth the slog. (Or not, if you just can't stand Aquinas.) Definitely recommended to anyone who is interested in learning more about medieval concepts of art.
Michael
Umberto Eco's book on Middle Ages understanding of art and its role in religious imagery is a well argued discussion of how art was understood by mediaval philosophy, religion and artists.
Danny
A brief but satisfying introduction to art and beauty in the middle ages. Perhaps most impressive is the intricate metaphysical framework used in expounding the doctrine of beauty.
Kathryn
Lovely and lyrical style, more poetry than prose. A refreshing and enjoyable change of pace from most of the other volumes I read in my Gothic Spirit class!
Tina
here's one i haven't read for almost, could it be...ugh...20 years...but it had a mighty impact at the time.
want to revisit
think i'll love it even more
Aliya
Feb 15, 2009 Aliya marked it as to-read
gara-gara baca the name of the rose-nya Eco, aku jadi tertarik ne dengan dunia abad pertengahan...dimana ya bisa dapat buku ini...???
Andreea
Interesting, but too verbose at times. I expected something more connected to Medieval art than to Medieval thought. Hmm.
Lia
Een boek waar je zwaar op moet kauwen, vaak stukjes overlezen en dan plotseling het besef dat je het begrijpt!
Steve
Good

Really good the second time after reading his 'Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas'.
Keith Brough
very short book, yet contains so much. Interlibrary loan this book today, its worth it.
Gabrielle
Remember, Signore Eco, wrote this at a mere 24 years of age. Read it and weep.
Emily Wolahan
He wrote this when he was 26? Really fascinating.
Iskender
Beklediğim kadar iyi çıkmadı
Maria Harmleikur
Maria Harmleikur is currently reading it
Aug 26, 2014
Nebel Nacht
Nebel Nacht marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2014
Isis Garcia
Isis Garcia marked it as to-read
Aug 23, 2014
Irina
Irina marked it as to-read
Aug 23, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 50 51 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420
  • Meaning in the Visual Arts
  • The Making of the Middle Ages
  • Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture
  • Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages
  • Magic in the Middle Ages (Canto)
  • Medieval Women (Canto)
  • Letters on Cezanne
  • Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
  • A History of Illuminated Manuscripts
  • The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350
  • Dante: Poet of the Secular World (New York Review Books)
  • The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity
  • The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages
  • Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics
  • The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580
  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
1730
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
More about Umberto Eco...
The Name of the Rose Foucault's Pendulum History of Beauty Baudolino The Island of the Day Before

Share This Book

“El alma humana es la verdadera cópula del mundo porque, por un lado, se dirige hacia lo divino y, por el otro, se introduce en el cuerpo y domina la naturaleza.” 3 likes
“Todo concepto filosófico, tomado en su sentido más genérico, explica cualquier cosa.” 2 likes
More quotes…