Beauty is often defined as a pleasant feature of certain objects, which makes these objects enjoyable to see. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, art and humans. Beauty, along with personal taste and aesthetics, is the most significant theme of aesthetics, among the most important branches of fine art. It was Picasso who pointed out the importance of beauty for his work and even went to the extent of having a permanent exhibition of his ‘deteriorated’ women which he chose from the galleries of Paris. Such a bold move helped him to define aspects of modern beauty that have remained till date.
Modern aesthetics has various shades, and beauty is subjective in nature. There are several kinds of beauty, including physical beauty, psychological beauty, emotional beauty and aesthetic beauty. While beauty is primarily a matter of personal preference, there are some societal aspects of beauty that are important for people to accept.
The word beauty itself comes from the Greek word ‘glein’, which means beautiful. However, the meaning of this word is not easily identifiable, and it is widely used to mean all kinds of things. Some people would argue that the word beauty itself does not have a clearly defined meaning; but beauty is not necessarily related to physical appearance. The word beauty depends a great deal on the culture that we belong to, and our personal ideas about beauty. The definition of beauty varies widely, with each society using different criteria to define beauty.
Cultural definitions of beauty are also influenced by language. For instance, in the Western society, beauty is thought to be purely objective, a standard that can be objectively measured. Beauty is seen only as a natural trait, which can be learned and controlled through education. Beauty is considered beautiful only if a person finds it pleasing to see a certain degree of attractiveness in oneself or in another person. Beauty is seen as an innate quality that is possessed by humans from birth, and is not something that one can change.
Some beauty standards are universal, while others are dependent on a particular culture and time period. For example, in the European cultures, many consider symmetry to be a beauty standard. Symmetry exists between the left and right side of the body, and nose to nose symmetry is very popular among eurocentric women. Symmetry within hair and nail structure is also common.
In the middle ages, beauty was not nearly as subjective as it is now, and the definition of beauty varied greatly from region to region. The middle ages were a time when women had less freedom, and their place in society was not as secure as it is today. Thus, they could see and appreciate other human beauty as their own, which helped pave the way for more refined beauty standards to emerge in the later middle ages.