Ufken, Emily

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On the beauty of vases : Birkhoff’s aesthetic measure versus Hogarth’s line of beauty

2023-04-20, Hübner, Ronald, Ufken, Emily

Vases continue to be important aesthetic objects in almost all developed cultures. Nevertheless, there is little to no systematic research on the shape characteristics that determine their beauty. A famous exception is Birkhoff, who in his 1933 book used the geometric ratios of vases to calculate their beauty. One form factor that he discussed theoretically but did not include in his aesthetic measure is the outline curvature of vases. This is despite the fact that William Hogarth recognized curvature as relevant to the aesthetic evaluation of forms as early as 1753, demonstrating this with his Line of Beauty. Given the great influence of these two ideas, the aim of the present study was to examine their contribution to the aesthetics of vases. For this objective, we designed a set of symbolic vases by systematically varying width and curvature, and asked participants to rate their beauty in an online experiment. The results show that both geometric ratios and curvature contribute to the beauty of the vases.

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Is Hogarth's 'Line of Beauty' really the most beautiful? : An empirical answer after more than 250 years

2022, Hübner, Ronald, Ufken, Emily

Since the Renaissance, different line types have been distinguished by artists and art theorists. However, it took another hundreds of years until the British artist William Hogarth attributed different degrees of beauty to them. Particularly, in his book "The Analysis of Beauty" (1753) he depicted seven waving lines, declared line number 4 as the most beautiful, and called it the "line of beauty". Until today, the line of beauty has a persistently strong influence in many areas such as landscape art and design, calligraphy, furniture design, architecture, dance, etc. It is astonishing that Hogarth's assumptions have never been empirically tested. Therefore, we asked participants to rate Hogarth's lines by their beauty. As a result, line number 4 was indeed the most preferred, although number 5 was judged similarly. An analysis revealed that curvature was nonlinearly related to beauty and explains more than 90% of the variance in the mean aesthetic judgments.