History of Beauty by Umberto Eco

History of Beauty

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 lavishly illustrated with abundant examples of sublime painting and scu...

Details History of Beauty

TitleHistory of Beauty
Release DateNov 13th, 2004
GenreArt, Nonfiction, History, Philosophy, Art History, European Literature, Italian Literature, Cultural, Italy, Reference, Writing, Essays, Historical

Reviews History of Beauty

  • Kalliope
    Reading Eco’s study On Beauty feels like visiting a Temple with very many chambers. In each room there are texts. There are also images, many of them too and of good quality and they are all photos of art pieces. During this visit we are accompanied by the talk of a commentator. He comments on the texts only. Not on the images. Each room corresponds to a period in the Quest of Beauty. In this pursuit we can also conceive each space as forming a...
  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    Storia della bellezza = History of beauty, 2nd ed, 2005, Umberto EcoStoria della bellezza (2004, co-edited with Girolamo de Michele – English translation: History of Beauty/On Beauty, 2004). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it also has a lot to do with the beholder's cultural standards. In History of Beauty, renowned author Umberto Eco sets out to demonstrate how every historical era has had its own ideas about eye-appeal. Pages of cha...
  • Coyle
    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 sect...
  • Stela
    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 art dilettantism , I'm not sure (and I won't dig, so back off!). Anyway, I think the author completed his objectives, enumerated in Introduction:- to i...
  • Roman Clodia
    This is more source-book than analytical history and while there's no doubting Eco's erudition, all that's really on display here is his ability to summarise and compress vast swathes of literature into a handful of paragraphs : {whisper} this is pretty shallow and superficial, and anyone with an informed view of intellectual history won't learn anything new. What is valuable is the way Eco has effectively curated texts, both visual and literary,...
  • Luís C.
    It is a book that is not based on artistic criteria of beauty, but the beauty marked by time, by the concepts, for what it was and was considered beautiful in every season.I think the author exceeds too much the beautiful setting, in keeping with the beauty.He didn't convinced me.Sorry..I almost give it up..It was only funny, cross myself with the various interpreters of the history of art ... But very little, very little.
  • Gabriella
    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 o...
  • Bjorn
    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 Me...
  • Psychophant
    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 t...
  • Jose
    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 Hi...
  • AyaSuu
    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 literature of the time. 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 texts without comments) and boring at times. It doesn't feel like a co...
  • Ilgar DIANATI
    Umberto Eco is one of my long term interests. I've learned and enjoyed a lot reading this valuable art reference.
  • Beata
    Excellence in its own right ...
  • Rachel
    Dense.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 pl...
  • 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 ...
  • Jarryn
    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 strik...
  • Pollopicu
    I got through this book by pure endurance I built by jogging 2-3 miles a day, 4 times a week. Otherwise I wouldn't have made it through. Good thing I have mental stamina. It's gotten me through a lot of difficult times in my life. I loved Umberto's book "On Ugliness". I gave that five stars, which is the reason I asked for a copy of "On Beauty" for Christmas, so I could have the set, and forever cherish them both. I learned a lot about literature...
  • José Luís Fernandes
    History of Beauty is a nice exposition of the History of the concept of beauty. The scholarship by Eco is very good and the book has a lot of illustrations and primary sources to back his claims (although for the 20th century there is a lack of texts). I must just warn that the stirrups didn't reach Europe in the High Middle Ages, but instead was already around in the late 6th and early 7th centuries (depending on the region) probably due to Avar...
  • Lingkai
    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 in...
  • Matt
    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 engag...
  • J.J.
    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 idea...
  • Mirande
    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 g...
  • Alex Kartelias
    An amazing book. I love how he deals with many mediums and how tight his grasp is of Kant, Aquinus, Schiller, Hegel and others. The first formal book on aesthetics I've read and now I'm hungry to go and read these thinkers. Even though I wish he would have covered Eastern art as well go more into archicture and music, it was inspiring none the less.
  • Steven Godin
    Fascinating, much better than his fiction.
  • Ivan Antonov
    The best book of a season
  • Besaro
    The book was really great,.
  • Chris
    History of Beauty by Umberto Eco Umberto Eco is notorious as the Italian professor of semiotics who wrote a bestseller, The Name of the Rose, which sparked off a host of imitators and invigorated interest in the study of medieval art and culture. In addition to all that, he has been an editor in TV and publishing, a columnist for an avant garde monthly, and a prolific essayist. If there is such a thing as a renaissance man, Eco is it. On Beauty i...