Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic

By Benedetto Croce; Douglas Ainslie | Go to book overview

II
ÆSTHETIC IDEAS IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE

ALMOST all the developments of ancient æsthetic were continued by tradition or reappeared by spontaneous generation in the course of the Middle Ages. Neo- Platonic mysticism continued, entrusted to the care of the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (De coelesti hierarchia, De ecclesiastica hierarchia, De divinis nominibus, etc.), to the translations of these works made by John Scotus Eriugena, and to the divulgations of the Spanish Jews (Avicebron). The Christian God took the place of the Summum Bonum or Idea: God, wisdom, goodness, supreme beauty, source of beautiful things in nature, which are a ladder to the contemplation of the Creator. But these speculations continued to recede further and further from the consideration of art, with which Plotinus had connected them; and the empty definitions of the beautiful by Cicero and other ancient writers were often repeated. Saint Augustine defined beauty in general as unity (omnis Pulchritudinis forma unitas est), and that of the body as congruentia partium cum quadam coloris suavitate, and the old distinction between something that is beautiful in itself and relative beauty reappeared in a book of his, which has been lost, entitled De pulchro et apto; the very name shows that he reasserted the old distinction between the beautiful in itself and the relatively beautiful, quoniam apte accommodaretur alicui. Elsewhere he notes that an image is called beautiful si perfecte implet illud cujus imago est, et coaequatur ei.1


Middle Ages. Mysticism. Ideas on the beautiful.

____________________
1
Confess. IV, X. ch, 13; De Trinitate, vi. ch. 10; Episi. 3, 18; Decivitate Dei

-175-

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