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on June 3, 2015
the perfect companion to Eco's "history of Beauty
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on January 3, 2014
Umberto Eco travels trough time on this study on ugliness... great book for anyone interested on art history, graphic design or similar.
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on August 19, 2016
Wonderful book. Amazing content
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on September 14, 2015
Love it Thank you
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on December 14, 2012
El libro llegó en el tiempo estimado
Producto en muy buen estado,
No hay queja alguna o reclamo, todo en orden
Recomiendo al vendedor
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on May 8, 2008
I was a little worried this book might be really dry and difficult to read but it has been enjoyable and interesting so far. I decided to buy Umberto Eco's Beauty book too.
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on April 23, 2017
Excellent!
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on January 1, 2014
This is an amazing collection of weird, bizarre, demented pictures, most of them in vivid color.

There is a little text....some writings by Eco. But he is the editor, and he has picked small paragraphs from throughout the ages and then supplied appropriate pictures to accompany each one. The scholarship that went into this project must have been Herculean.

We get pictures of the grotesque, the ugly, the revolting, from medieval times up to the present. At one point, I stopped reading the text and thumbed through, awaiting the next horrific work of art and congratulating myself on being able to recognize many of the artists. Most of the great masters are represented. Even the most noble and inspirational painting might have a horrific detail in the corner depicting a demon or a plague victim or a madwoman. These are the details Eco is interested in. This is not a comfortable pretty world of kittens and flowers. These pictures celebrate torture and disease and insanity as portrayed by artists through the centuries.

Until I saw these pictures, I had no idea that some cathedrals had shocking and violent statues. The outside gargoyles I knew about, but the humans suffering inhuman(e) torments left me wondering why I had never seen these details in my European cathedral tours. If you are interested in the macabre, the Gothic, and the nightmarish, the many fabulous pictures in this book will leave you reeling in disbelief, shock, and wonder.
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'One man's trash is another man's treasure' might be a apt conclusion after spending the significant amount of time required to digest Umberto Eco's semiotic approach to 'ugly'. Eco's brilliance as an author is well accepted, yet his informed academic investigation (upon which many of his own novels are based) is only now being appreciated. It is difficult to read ON UGLINESS as a treatise, so lush and provocative is his prose style. Rizzoli International spared no expense on supplying Eco with images and design of this art treasure, and the result is a volume about art history and our manifold perceptions of the signs and symbols that through time have defined 'ugly' versus 'beauty.'

Eco wisely uses the chronological approach to his discourse on the semiotics of ugliness. After a superb Introduction in which he suggests the response of an alien visiting our planet, trying to determine what our civilization labeled beautiful (!), Eco launches into his presentation with gusto. He presents chapters on ugliness in the Classical World, religious use of ugliness (passion, death, martyrdom, apocalypse, hell), monsters, witchcraft, sadism, 'obscene pornography', the appearance of ugliness in architecture and industrial buildings, and finally the transition of the 'ugly' in the popular kitsch and camp.

Coupled with the fascinating written words by the author are copious reproductions of paintings, details of images (some of the details of Bosch's complex canvases are amazingly clear), by both well known painters and unknown painters, displayed with short excerpts from writers who wrote on the subject of the ugly versus the beautiful. Eco brings us to the absolute present (punk art, Cindy Sherman, current film, etc) and as his images emerge from the book's pages, so does his commentary quicken. And so we are left with a book on the subject of Ugliness, which as an art volume is quite the opposite: this is a very beautiful and informed new art book. Highly recommended reading and viewing. Grady Harp, November 07
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on February 10, 2014
Umberto Eco begins ‘On Ugliness’ with the observation that there is an entire history of beauty but such a history did not happen with ugliness. Why is this? Perhaps, the author reasons, since ugliness was frequently defined throughout the ages as the opposite of beauty. Well, if there ever was a book taking a giant step to rectify a neglect of ugliness, this is the book – 450 pages and nearly 1000 full-color illustrations as well as dozens of primary source excerpts chock full of the ugly. And here’s a sampling of the synonyms Eco lists for the word: repellent, horrible, disgusting, grotesque, abominable, repulsive, odious, indecent, foul, obscene, repugnant, monstrous, horrifying, nightmarish, revolting, sickening, deformed, disfigured.

If anybody wonders why we are so fascinated and drawn to the ugly and monstrous, such wondering has a long history. For example, Umberto Eco quotes Bernard of Clarevaux bemoaning how Christians are fascinated with monsters and monstrosities, “What place is there in the cloisters for that ridiculous monstrosity, that strange kind of deformed shape or shaped deformity? What are foul apes doing there? Or ferocious lions? Or monstrous centaurs? Or half-men? Or dappled tigers? You can see many bodies beneath a single head and vice versa many heads atop a single body. On the one side you can see a quadruped with a serpent’s tail, and on the other a fish with a quadruped’s head. Here, a beast that looks like a horse with the hindquarters of a goat, there a horned animal with the hindquarters of horse. In short there is everywhere such a great and strange variety of heterogeneous forms that there is more pleasure to be had in reading the marbles than the codices and in spending the whole day admiring one by one these images rather than meditating on the law of God.”

Again, why is this? The answer is as complex as human nature is complex. Taking one approach, we can look at a quote Eco includes from a novel by J.-K. Huysmans, “These nightmares attached him repeatedly. He was afraid to fall asleep. For hours he remained stretched on his bed, now a prey to feverish and agitated wakefulness, now in the grip of oppressive dreams in which he tumbled down flights of stairs and felt himself sinking, powerless, into abysmal depths.” In a word, the monsters portrayed in paint, sculpture, photography, film and literature mirror the content of our dreamscape visions. On some level we want to come to grips with our nocturnal experience and the monstrous in art is a prime way to do so.

The author includes Andy Warhol’s ‘Orange Car Crash’ a print using the photograph of an overturned car with three people pinned underneath. This is a nightmare we in the modern world face as a living possibility nearly every day. Again, the ugly is very much part of our day to day experience and a living nightmare is forever looming. For me, reading Eco’s book was a powerful experience, so powerful, I’d like to share a poem of mine on the topic:

Hieronymus Bosch Hell Landscape

I’m driving down the highway in a driving rain.
Off on the shoulder there’s a scene from hell.

I see a car, a new sports car.
The roof smashed. There is manure covering the
Smashed roof and a huge round chunk of metal,
Probably a part for industrial usage
Right in the middle of the manure,
On the smashed roof.
Evidently, something fell from a truck.

In front of the car
An overweight woman is sitting in a ball
On the ground,
Knees pulled up, head buried in her arms.
A two-year old girl stands in front of the woman,
Trying to get her attention.
No umbrellas, no raincoats, no nothing.
Just a stunned woman and a child
On the side of the highway
Unprotected from the cold, driving rain.

A police car pulls up to the accident scene
lights flashing.

I wonder what the woman was thinking
Before this happened.
Shopping with her daughter and sister?
Visiting her mother?
Helping to prepare dinner for a friend?
And just like that.
She’s in the middle of a
Hieronymus Bosch hell landscape.
No car. No heat. No comfort. No pleasure.
Nothing but pain, intense pain.
Sitting there in a driving rain, stunned,
Sitting in a ball,
No even able to comfort a child.

How quickly it can happen.
From our normal routine
To hell
In one quick stroke.
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