The Ideal Beauty of the Human Body in Art

A Short Introduction to European History of Culture


(This lecture was written as a welcome speech to an international congress of aesthetic plastic surgeons in southern Germany 1999.)

The idea of the perfect human body is a result of culture: religious functions, economy, advertisement and other factors.

The definition of beauty is not an immanent and objective quality of things, since every age, place and social class formed its own ideal of it, ideal beauty is corresponding with the aesthetic feeling of people of a respecting period.

"History of art" as a relatively young science earlier was called subjectively "aesthetics". Art was supposed to evoke religious contemplation and/or sensuos and mental delight., as the ancient poet Heliodor postulated.

However according to the great historian Ranke the task of an historian is plainly "to tell as it really was..", and not his own opinions or feelings.

Actually nowadays we are not any more allowed to call something objectively beautiful, only "to me it is beautiful" or  "I like it", especially since art expresse the disorder and confusion of mankind.

It seem, that there is no more ideals and "anything goes"...

Now I am delighted to go on a short trip through our history of culture with this exquisite audience!


1999 G. W. Cichon-Hollander