Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
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Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages

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)
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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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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...???
Interesting, but too verbose at times. I expected something more connected to Medieval art than to Medieval thought. Hmm.
Een boek waar je zwaar op moet kauwen, vaak stukjes overlezen en dan plotseling het besef dat je het begrijpt!

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.
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.
Beklediğim kadar iyi çıkmadı
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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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The Name of the Rose Foucault's Pendulum History of Beauty Baudolino The Island of the Day Before

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