Thursday, 14 January 2010


Aristotle's remarks on amplitude are fascinating (Poetics ch. 7, 1450b - 1451a).

He is obviously dealing with art and beauty. "It is not enough for beauty that a thing, whether an animal or anything else composed of parts, should have those parts well ordered; since beauty consists in amplitude as well as in order, the thing must also have amplitude".

And not just any amplitude, he goes on. Too small a creature cannot be beautiful, "since our view loses all distinctness". Neither is an enormously ample one beautiful, since our view of it is not simultaneous, so that we lose a sense of its unity and wholeness. The ideal seems to be 'the ampler the better, provided it remains clear as a whole.'

I am thinking of Michelangelo's David: it is huge, much larger than I had expected, and breadth-taking.

And Monet's Nympheas: you can't take it all in at one glance, simply because it is painted all over an oval shaped room; but it does have its own beauty!

1 comment:

  1. In this vein look at Edmund Burke’s work on the sublime; A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse concerning Taste. Things has moved on, but he lays his thoughts well I feel.

    This link may be worth a look—