On Winckelmann

In reading Winckelmann’s “Essay on the Beautiful in Art,” I found it difficult to look past his sweeping opinions about certain works and artists and really focus on his theories about art and beauty in general.  Statements such as “The epitome of beauty in architecture is to be found in the most beautiful building in the world, and that is St. Peter’s,” really bothered me as I read through the essay.  I felt like his rants against certain artists and about their work took away from his ideas and his arguments.  With his discussion of the inner and outer senses, I feel like Winckelmann builds up a space in which he can make sweeping statements such as these, because of his assertions that his senses are so exquisite.  However, I could not come to terms with this tone.

With that said, I was surprised to find myself touched by the end of Winckelmann’s essay.  His admission that “not everything can be taught in writing” and his suggestion to “Go hither and look” felt more in tune with his general conception of art and beauty.  While his volley of opinions built up a pretentious air, this final moment of the essay placed some importance on the observations and opinions of the essay’s audience.

–Jessica Saltiel

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