Monday, April 18, 2011

The Anatomy of Beauty

What is Beauty? How do we define it? Is it hidden in the mathematical precision of an unknown algorithm? The golden ratio? To me true beauty is something almost tangible. I recognize it through a feeling I get when in its presence. It is an experience, an experience of Beauty.
Here is a random selection of poems, paintings, songs and other objects d'art that I find beautiful:

1. Celine Dion, 1 fille & 4 types
I eschew the term "best ever" but this album is very high on my ever so small a list of favourites.

De milliers de baisers or Millions of kisses is perhaps to my mind the most powerful ballad on the entire album. It speaks of a dissolution of a love affair and its aftermath.
So beautiful and eloquent, I am left speechless and in awe every time I listen to it.

2. Sandro Boticelli, Birth of Venus

I don't profess to be particularly knowledgeable when it comes to fine arts but I am able to recognize quality. This piece has me mesmerised since I first saw it some ten, twelwe years ago. It is held in Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

3. Cherry blossom

A bloom deemed so perfect it even has its own day in Japanese culture. Hanami literally translates to flower viewing and is a day spent in admiration of cherry blossom and sometimes includes a ritual picnic under the cherry tree.

This photo was taken last weekend at my mum's house and the cherry tree is called Lapin which means rabbit in french.

4. Le smoking

Le smoking was designed in 1966 by Yves Saint Laurent. A tuxedo suit for women was the first of its kind and it revolutionized womens' fashion as much as Chanel's little black dress did decades before.
The iconic photo was taken by Helmut Newton in 1975.

5. Alessandro Baricco, Silk

It is fitting that the title of this story is Silk for Baricco's words are like liquid silk. His style of writing has sometimes been referred to as literary prose.

Although his father had imagined for him a brilliant future in the army, Hervé Joncour ended up earning his living in an unusual profession that, with singular irony, had a feature so sweet as to betray a vaguely feminine intonation.

For a living, Hervé Joncour bought and sold silkworms.
It was 1861. Flaubert was writing Salammbô, electric light was still a hypothesis and Abraham Lincoln, on the other side of the ocean, was fighting a war whose end he would not see.
Hervé Joncour was thirty-two years old.
He bought and sold.


  1. You made a big question, yes, definitely the golden ratio. In everything.
    Why do you find beauty there, where I miss it?
    I´ll have to sleep on this one.

  2. Mette, I'm sorry but I didn't quite understand your question? Were you referring to the different disciplines (music, painting, nature, fashion)? I did try to put a random variety into this post but I wanted every piece to come from a different genre to emphasise that beauty can in fact emanate from everywhere. Or did you not like these particular object I picked?
    I was hoping more people would comment, that way we can exchange opinions on such an important yet elusive matter of defining beauty or at least trying to.

  3. I´m so sorry, I expressed myself badly. The question was an open one-for everyone, to think about. I absolutely have nothing against your choices, they are beautiful-for you. And that count´s. I too expected a lot of discussion about the topic; therefore I asked to sleep a night over it ; )
    Beauty for me does not mean, that something has to be perfect. But the rule of the golden ratio has to be filled, especially in architecture.
    I have noticed, that what I found beautiful at one time, does not necessarily appeal to me at all anymore.
    Your list is versatile. It describes your personality well.

  4. What is beauty and how do we define it? Hmmm....

    I think there is definitely a kind of cultural aspect to beauty. Someone has to accept the thing in question as being 'beautiful' defined by terms, (dictated by society and/ or by themselves) of what being 'beautiful' is.
    Maybe these terms include things like being pleasing to the eye, aesthetically pleasing, emotionally moving in a good or poignant way.
    So beauty would be a thing that is pleasing or poignant to the viewer which fulfills the specific cultural tick boxes of what 'beauty' should be.
    I guess what I am trying to say is that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'!

  5. Therefore 'Beauty' is the defined undefinable!?

    This is getting a bit deep for a Tuesday afternoon!
    I've enjoyed thinking about this one.
    Great post :-)

  6. Mette: In that case I understood :-) But I'm happy you came back today and elaborated further. The question of beauty is an important one for me, but not only the banal question of one's appearance. It's much deeper than that: beauty can be found in a superbly crafted engine of a car too. I admire all things that have been created with a passion. As for perfection? Every time I think of perfection I think of the Persian rugs and the symbolic meaning of their immperfection.

  7. bead addict: Yes I agree it's definitely a cultural thing as well. After all, we are taught to recognize certain patterns from a young age. To me beauty is definitely emotionally defined as I said in the post.
    I find I am particularly moved by the power of words.

  8. Chanel's little black dress before was indeed a great change in women's fashion. It contributed a lot on how our women look today especially in offices and during special occasions.