Beauty is widely defined as a subjective aspect of physical objects which makes these objects enjoyable to perceive. Such objects may include sunsets, landscapes, humans and other beautiful works of art. Beauty, along with aesthetic sense, is perhaps the most significant part of aesthetics, possibly the most important branch of visual philosophy.
The word beauty comes from the Greek goddess Eressa (or Erseis), who was the embodiment of beauty in Greek art. According to tradition, the Goddess Eressa inspired Homer’s hero Odysseus to sack Troy after he crossed the sea with his ships, thus winning him his prize for being the most handsome man in the country. A more literal interpretation states that Eressa’s golden skin hid her true beauty, and therefore, Odysseus was able to see beyond the surface of her skin by seeing her as an ideal face in art. For this reason, the idea of beauty became closely linked to religion, and the concept found its way into art history, becoming identified as the ‘ideal face’ of Greek art.
From early on, the idea of beauty was associated with Greek religion and artistry. The term for a particular religious ideal, or ‘iety,’ was used to designate the physical form or formless nature of these religious ideal faces. However, for the conceptualization of beauty in terms of Greek mythology and culture, these faces were perceived to have a ‘face value,’ a value that could be judged according to their ability to replicate the ideal attributes that had been derived from Greek gods and goddesses.
As such, the makeup that was used to enhance these forms was intimately related to the values that held them in reverence. Greek women, for instance, were known to use special cosmetics to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune. In fact, much of Greek mythology concerns itself with the makeup of the Gods and Goddesses. Such makeup typically involved the application of oils and other substances onto the skin in order to alter the color of the complexion. In addition to using special greek cosmetics, many Greek women also wore decorative bracelets made of pearls or gold that were specially woven to their wrists. The bracelets were said to enhance the beauty of their bodies, and were often worn by women during important ceremonies and celebrations.
In the late 19th century, American anthropologist Louis Sullivan became well known for his studies of the cultural meaning of beauty in all cultures around the world. He argued that beauty is a much more psychological concept than was previously understood. For instance, the cultural meaning of a beautiful face is very different from that of a beautiful body. Beauty then, is dependent upon the gaze of the beholder rather than on any outward physical qualities possessed by a person. Beauty became deeply associated with all aspects of Greek artistry, and the word beauty eventually became synonymous with Greek culture.
According to Greek mythology, the Goddess Diana demanded that her lovers strip their enemies of their most beautiful features in order to prove their valor. In ancient times, people attributed a physical beauty to the personage of a particular soul. Thus, the idea of beauty became connected with divine ideals. This can be seen in the way in which early Christians glorified the Virgin Mary (the mother of God) with the image of a beautiful body. In recent years, the fashionable belief that beauty is an internal state has become widespread in western society. The affirmation “I am a beautiful person” (in English translation, “I have a good heart”) is now commonly used to express optimism about one’s own inner beauty or inner value.