Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Deformity and Ugliness; Preserving Beauty

Victim of War

Ugliness is back in fashion. Recent critical studies include a source book produced in association with Umberto Eco and Stephen Bayley's Ugly: the Aesthetics of Everything (2012).

Researchers will also want to consult books composed in the eighteenth century, such as the following:

 "Deformity is to be considered, not as a total privation of beauty, but as a want of congruity in the parts, or rather an inability in them to answer their natural design; as when one arm or leg is longer than the other; when the back is hunched, when the eyes squint, and such similar defects: which, however, are not to be opposed as a contrast to beauty; for the unfortunate object may, in every other part of his body, be exactly well-made, and perfectly agreeable. 

Whereas ugliness, which I look upon to be proper contrast to beauty, may exist in the human form without deformity; nor can I think the ideas necessarily connected. Ugliness always excites our aversion to the object in which it resides; deformity as generally calls up our commiseration. 

Ugliness seems to consist in the appearance of something malevolent to human nature. The picture of the devil always creates horror and disgust; not from the deformity of either his person our countenance, but from the expression of malice in the latter. 

It is from the countenance that an object is pronounced ugly, though without the least deformity, or even while an exact symmetry is preserved; for it is the expression of the soul that gives the disgust. If this opinion be well founded, it is easier to become beautiful than even to correct deformity."


Hebe; or the Art of Preserving Beauty , and Correcting Deformity; being a Complete Treatise on the Various Defects of the Human Body, with the most approved Methods of Prevention and Cure; and the Preservation of Health and Beauty in general. Including an extensive collection of simple yet efficacious Cosmetic and Medical Recipes (1786)

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  1. This is the 2nd of one thousand short blogs on deformity, the monstrous, and the grotesque.

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