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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An historical view of what moves "the eye of the beholder".
Dostoyevsky once observed that "beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man". In History of Beauty Umberto Eco provides an historical context to how that battlefield has changed over the past 3000 years or so.

This is a sumptuous, unusually high quality coffee table book. While its over 400 photographs are extremely engaging, the...
Published on December 1, 2004 by David J. Gannon

versus
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not great either.
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...
Published on March 21, 2012 by C. Neal


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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An historical view of what moves "the eye of the beholder"., December 1, 2004
By 
David J. Gannon (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
Dostoyevsky once observed that "beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man". In History of Beauty Umberto Eco provides an historical context to how that battlefield has changed over the past 3000 years or so.

This is a sumptuous, unusually high quality coffee table book. While its over 400 photographs are extremely engaging, the introductions and essays Eco provides are absorbing and just as illuminating as the pictures. Eco lists himself as editor, but that is false modesty. His writing here is excellent, erudite and informative and provides a lot of food for thought as one peruses the visuals.

As is to be expected from Eco, his essays cite philosopher that run the gamut from Aristotle and Plato through to Xenophon (though I did not see any Dostoyevsky references though that dark soul was seemingly compulsive about the mesmerizing qualities of beauty) and thusly provide an all encompassing review of differing concepts of what is beautiful by both geographically and chronologically.

This is a rich, beautiful book that will please the dedicated reader as well as the casual surfer who might flip through it.

If you want to upgrade the ambiance of your coffee table, this would be an excellent choice.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking made clear, February 5, 2005
By 
John Seybold (Madera, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
Only Umberto Eco could write a book that defines beauty through the ages of western culture as this one does. He looks at the great contemporary writers for insight into the great contemprary artists. Umberto brings Plato to the front to explain early Greek art, and brings in Hume to explain humanist style. It is a classical book that should be used in colleges to not only introduce people to art but to thinking about art and words. The color plates are wonderful. What I wish is that the Italian CDrom was available in English. One can see from the style used that this book was a great interactive CDrom.

Reading Umberto's insights and looking at great art..what a wonderful way to spend a morning at starbucks!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the Aesthetics of Beauty, November 23, 2006
By 
Greg (Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
Umberto Eco is one of the world's leading experts on aesthetics and art, as well as being an outstanding novelist in his own right.

This work on the history of beauty is aimed at a general audience rather than a specialised one, and as such it abounds more in beautiful works of art and illustrations rather than scholarly analysis of art itself. However, it still contains an excellent history of the idea of beauty, and how artists through the ages have tried to implement somewhat abstract ideas, while philosophers and theologians have abstracted from art to apply artistic and creative terms to entities such as Platonic Forms or God.

One of the most interesting developments in the history of beauty was the identification of beauty with reality as it was in itself. Platonists identified the beautiful with the Good or the One, and Christians planted these ideas onto God. The notion that God was the most beautiful entity that existed, that God could be represented in art, and also that the cosmos in many ways is God's work of Art, expressed itself in many great works of art, poetry and architecture in the medieval period.

With the Renaissance, the concept of beauty became more grounded in human and earthly realities, and one sees far more focus on the beauty of material objects, nature, and people, as they are rather than their ideal nature. Art becomes more and more focused on the material world until the 20th century when in the era of late capitalism, art itself has become a consumable commodity and the chief virtue of art seems to be to cause pleasant feelings to arise in the consumer (something Andy Warhol satirises a lot in his works of art). Yet even in this period, artists still manage to create works of creative beauty which capture both the beautiful and the ugly, as we now see them.

This work is essential reading for anyone curious about Art and its history, and its relation to abstract ideas.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Reference, August 2, 2005
By 
Alfred Eppens (New Baltimore, MI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
This is Umberto Eco at his most restrained, and yet he remains profound. The breathtaking range of photos and their sequence speak for themselves, and his comments add immeasurably. This is a book which I will not keep on the shelf, but instead on my desk for frequent reference, refreshment and inspiration.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful catalog and tease, August 15, 2006
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
This wonderful collection of art work History of Beauty edited by Umberto Eco attempts to answer the questions: What is beauty? What is art? What is taste and fashion? and Is beauty something to be observed coolly and rationally or is it something dangerously involving? With literally hundreds of reproductions of fine art works speaking to these questions, this book would be a joy even without the words. But of course the words tell the deeper story and attempt to give at least partial answers - sometimes directly, more often indirectly.

The chapters cover such things as the aesthetic ideal in ancient Greece, light and color in the Middle Ages, magic beauty between the 15th and 16th centuries, and romantic beauty. The reader and observer sees that the depiction of beauty has both changed and remained constant over the centuries. The symmetry, the color, the poetry might change with the art form while it is clear that the characteristics of the human bodies (both female and male) have not changed.

History of Beauty would make a wonderful coffee table book in any home except maybe those who find the naked body distasteful.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Small Coffee Table Art Based Book!, January 16, 2005
By 
S. Henkels (Devon, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
Between the 400 or so photos, mostly of art work through the ages, and the text, with comments by philisophers (from Plato,thru Diderot,Hume, Kant, to the present day), artists, writers (notably Shakespeare,Goethe, Wilde among many others), this book seems to contain about everything regarding the idea and interpretation of beauty thru the ages. From Man , Woman (in the flesh and in clothing), to Kings and Queens, Madonnas and Messiahs, Art, Architecture, Nature, you name it, this is a fine read, worth at least several college credits on aesthetics and art. Not to mention a perennial browser, during those (hopefully many)quiet times, when the TV is off, and some thinking and relaxation,and even romance, are in the air!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty is easy to define: It's all what it desperates us!, January 17, 2006
This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
This clever statement of Paul Valery works out as magnificent frame to remark this passionate and fabulous journey through the times. Umberto Eco is withtout any shadow of doubt, a true Renaissance man. His erudition becomes him a stalker, a wise explorer of the most significative aspects about the beauty in all orders. Of course, this ambitious and succesful project includes a whole vision since the initial premise of The Greeks around this concept, the Middle Age, Renaissance until our days.

But the visual support enriches still more, this invaluable information, the search of the beauty as main motive for many artists of the Past; its alluring charm ignited the febrile imagination of Novalis when affirmed: "Truth is beauty; beauty is truth".

All the positive adjectives of any reviewer will still remain incomplete to describe in its intrinsic grandness, the importance and transcendence of this outstanding essay.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Beauty, March 1, 2008
By 
P. Karargiris (Adelaide, South Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
This is an excellent archive of writing about and images of beauty from Classical Antiquity to the present day. The one thing that the book makes abundantly clear is that what is considered "beautiful" is constantly changing. The concept of that which is beautiful is as old as the human race itself and will continue to be redefined as long as history lasts. Umberto Eco's strength in bringing this collection of texts and images together is his use of little known sources from the Middle Ages as well as Italian Renaissance authors such as Baldassare Castiglione who deserve to be better known. Binding, design and organisation are all first rate and this is a very readable and accessable text. Beauty is all that pleases................
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, February 22, 2008
This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
I don't know how to put it, but I found the book to be quite fascinating in terms of giving specific levels of the idea of beauty in culture, society, and especially in history. It adjusts the idea of beauty and how it affects everyone's perception of psychology versus the time periods of different eras and such. It is enlightening and informative, as well as a book that keeps the notion of beauty in a broad perspective so as to not lean to one side more then another. It is fascinating to know how intelligent Eco really is, and that he seems to have moved my artistic passion through notion of looking at beauty through the eyes of a person who has been able to grasp this concept thoroughly well.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Elevated, November 20, 2007
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This review is from: History of Beauty (Hardcover)
Eco's study of beauty and what constitutes it inspires an investigation into the nature of beauty itself, and in the process it also takes one on a tour of much of the most influential art of western history. An uplifting, thoughtful book by a great genius of modern times.
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History of Beauty
History of Beauty by Umberto Eco (Paperback - September 21, 2010)
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