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The concept/conception of beauty

Definitions: Bellezza - Beauty


From Dizionario Garzanti From Cambridge Advanced
della lingua italiana: Learners Dictionary
1. Qualit di ci che bello (anche 1. BEING BEAUTIFUL. The
in senso morale); il valore quality of being pleasing,
estetico delle cose especially to look at, or someone
Bellezza greca, classica or something that gives great
rispondente ai canoni dellarte pleasure, especially when you
greca antica
2. Persona o cosa bella, Le bellezze look at it
della natura 2. EXCELLENT THING
3. In espressioni enfatiche: questa (informal) something that is an
pianta cresce che una bellezza excellent example of its type
(bene e rapidamente) 3. ADVANTAGE a quality that
BELLO: si dice di ci che dotato di makes something especially
bellezza; che suscita good or attractive. Ex. The beauty of
ammirazione, piacere estetico. this plan (= what makes it good) is that it
wont cost too much.
The idea of beauty is not a fixed and stable one.
Beauty is indeed a cultural product, that is a product of
time and place. Consequently, if we move in space and
time we realise that standards of beauty vary and
cultures have differed in their attitudes to beauty.
For example, the Western canon of beauty has changed
over time.
For example, in ancient times, health was the most
important aspect in the choice of a partner. In a time
when the sick had little chance of survival,
beauty was associated with a healthy body.

Greek philosophers were the first people who asked what


makes a person beautiful. Plato saw beauty as a result
of symmetry and harmony.

In later times, beauty was also associated with morality.

What models emerge nowadays in your view?


Standards of beauty affect individuals and society.

For example, advertising often spreads


distorted and destructive ideals of femininity.

Can you give some examples?


Lets consider the canon of female
beauty in Italian Renaissance
literature, which was particularly
influenced by Petrarch.
Erano i capei doro a laura sparsi
che n mille dolci nodi gli avolgea,
e l vago lume oltra misura ardea
di quei begli occhi chor son s scarsi;

e l viso di pietosi color farsi,


non so se vero o falso, mi parea;
i che lsca amorosa al petto avea,
qual meraviglia se di sbito arsi?

Non era landar suo cosa mortale,


ma dangelica forma, et le parole
sonavan altro che pur voce humana:

uno spirto celeste, un vivo sole


fu quel chi vidi; et se non fosse or tale,
piagha per allentar darco non sana.
Francesco Petrarca, Sonnet 90
As Paola Tinagli explains in her book Renaissance Art:
Gender, Representation and Identity (Manchester University
Press, 1997):

Following the models provided by Petrarch and Boccaccio,


the canon of female beauty became codified by countless
descriptions, from Poliziano to Pietro Bembo, from Ariosto
to Boiardo. Variations were constructed around a number of
features which were constantly repeated: writers praised the
attractions of wavy hair gleaming like gold, of white skin
similar to snow, to marble, to alabaster or to milk; they
admired cheeks which looked like lilies and roses, and eyes that
shone like the sun or the stars. Lips are compared to rubies,
teeth to pearls, breasts to snow or to apples (pp. 85-6)